Paddle Plant Care: How To Grow Flapjacks Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora

The Paddle Plant – Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (kal-un-KOH-ee thur-SEE-flor-uh) is an attractive and colorful member of the family Crassulaceae or stonecrop hailing from South Africa.

The plant is an herbaceous perennial succulent plant.

Red edges of the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora
rose “paddles of Kalanchoe thyrsiflora – image: Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The common names include:

  • Paddle Plant
  • Flapjacks
  • Desert Cabbage
  • Dog Tongue

The genus Kalanchoe is a misspelling or a garble of the original Chinese name applied to various species of succulent herbs.

The specific epithet, thyrsiflora, refers to the thick cluster of flowers (thyrse) the plant produces at maturity (approximately three to four years of age).

Paddle Plant Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora Care

Size & Growth

Flapjack plants can attain a height of between 12″ to 30″ inches and spread as wide as 18″ inches.

The round, large, fleshy, stalkless leaves, grayish-green in color have red margins on the edge combining to form a basal rosette.

Mature plants as the age or flower will branch.

NOTE: Kalanchoe luciae and Kalanchoe tetraphylla are Kalanchoe species very similar in appearance. K. luciae is often confused with Thyrsiflora.

Desert Cabbage Plant Flowers & Fragrance

Once mature, Dog Tongue blooms in early spring – April through May.

The thick, pretty, lemon yellow flowers surrounded by foliage rimmed in red are worth waiting for.

Although fairly small the perfume is strong swamping the area with the scent.

Flowers grow atop an 18″ inch spike and are very attractive to bees and other pollinators.

The monocarpic parent plant will die after flowering, but you should leave it in the pot or in place and simply to cut away the dead vegetation and flower stalk. Offsets will soon spring forth to take its place.

Foliage

Foliage grows in a rosette formation of broad, oval, flat leaves stacked one upon another, like pancakes.

When grown in protected areas the surface of the leaves have a white powdery covering which is easily wiped off.

The leaf edges reach upward to catch the sun and turn bright red when ample sunlight is provided.

This explains one of the plant’s common names, Flapjacks, which is also the name of one cultivar of this succulent.

Flapjack plant the desert cabbage

Light & Temperature

Flapjack plants grow well in partial shade to full sun. Leaves will color up to red if the plant is placed in full sun.

When kept as a houseplant, provide plenty of indirect bright light, but avoid direct sunlight coming through a glass window. This can burn the plant.

Overwinter Dog Tongue in a cool, sunny setting. Water very sparingly.

Temperatures of about 60° degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for these plants in winter. During the growing season, the plant tolerates temperatures between 60° and 85° degrees Fahrenheit.

Paddle Plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12.

Watering & Feeding

Paddle Plant has medium water requirements and is fairly drought tolerant. As with most succulents, overwatering can produce disastrous results.

Water deeply during the growing season when the soil becomes completely dry. Water sparingly in the wintertime.

During the growing season (spring through summer) you may wish to provide a light solution of a cactus or succulent fertilizer. Do not fertilize during the fall and winter.

Soil & Transplanting

Flapjacks do well in a typical coarse succulent potting soil with sharp drainage.

It prefers soil that is slightly acidic with a pH value of 6.1 to 6.5; however, it can also do well in a neutral pH ranging from 6.6 to 7.3.

Frequent repotting is not recommended. Like most succulents, Kalanchoe does well when slightly rootbound.

Plan to repot after the plant blooms and offsets appear.

Grooming & Maintenance

Desert Cabbage requires little or no grooming and maintenance. Simply prune away any dead or withered leaves, and cleanup the plant after it has finished flowering.

Divide pups as desired for propagation.

How To Propagate Kalanchoe thyrsiflora

Propagate paddle plants by replanting the offsets into their own individual pots.

Alternately, you can take succulent cuttings or leaf cuttings and propagate as you would any other succulent.

Flapjack plants can also be grown from seed.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora Main Pest or Disease Problems

Paddle Plant experiences little or no disease or pest problems as long as the plant is properly watered and receives plenty of sun and good air circulation.

Overwatering and/or excessive fertilizing can lead to problems with powdery mildew, root rot, mealybugs, scale and mites.

Is K. Thyrsiflora Considered Toxic Or Poisonous To People, Kids, Pets?

All parts of Dog Tongue are quite toxic and should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

Wear gloves and long sleeves when handling the plant. Wash up promptly.

Are Flapjack Plants Considered Invasive?

There are many different species of Kalanchoe, and all are considered invasive in areas where they are winter hardy, such as Florida.

Uses For Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora

This succulent plant grows very well as a mass garden plant in winter hardy areas such as Florida.

It is a good candidate for the rock garden or in xeriscaping. In other areas, it is an excellent container plant.

Alternately it may be planted as an annual in any climate.

Flapjacks do well as indoor plants throughout most parts of the United States.

It makes an excellent container plant on the patio or in the garden during warmer weather and indoors as a houseplant during the wintertime.