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How to Propagate the Devil's Backbone Plant

Devil's backbone, Kalanchoe xhoughtonii, is a succulent plant that grows to a mature height of up to 3 feet. The toothed, lanceolate foliage is about 10 inches long, with each leaf producing up to 20 plantlets that may be used to propagate new plants. The plant blooms with tubular, 1-inch-long, downward-hanging inflorescences. Devil's backbone is a native of Madagascar and is also commonly referred to as kalanchoe. The invasive potential of devil's backbone often makes the plant hard to control in gardens.

Water your devil's backbone plant well a day prior to removing the plantlets. The plantlets grow on the edges of each leaf.

Prepare the rooting medium by filling a small, 3-inch pot with potting compost. Water to moisten.

Use clean tweezers to lift off a few plantlets from each leaf. Take care not to ruin the overall appearance of the leaf in the process. Do not take too many plantlets from a single leaf, and avoid damaging the plantlets as you handle them.

Lay the plantlets on the surface of the compost, leaving a couple of inches between each to allow room for growth.

Water enough to keep the compost moist during the rooting process. Do not overwater. Place in a warm bright area, but out of direct sunlight. It will take a few weeks for the plantlets to produce roots.

Transfer rooted plantlets to individual small containers filled with potting soil. Let plants get well established if you wish to transplant to a permanent spot in the garden.

Is Kalanchoe a Perennial?

Kalanchoe is a perennial succulent commonly used in landscapes in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. Kalanchoe tolerates dry conditions and grows best in partial shade. Gardeners in hardiness zones 7 to 9 often use kalanchoe as a summer annual.

Kalanchoe Pinnata & Its Medicinal Use

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Kalanchoe pinnata is a perennial plant that matures to a height of 3 to 5 feet.


Kalanchoe pinnata produces dark green leaves with serrated edges.

Kalanchoe Pinnata Functions

"Infusion or fresh leaf juice" has nervous-system-depressant, pain-relief and anti-inflammatory qualities, according to the website Raintree Nutrition. It has also been effective when used as an immunomodulator to alter immune functions.

External Uses

Juice from the leaves or infusions made from the leaves are applied to the skin to reduce inflammation or to treat bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

Internal Uses

Parts of the Kalanchoe pinnata plants, particularly the leaves, are ingested to suppress coughs, lower cholesterol, reduce fevers, heal wounds, treat kidney stones and treat infections.

House Plants That Grow Baby Plants on Their Leaves

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Bryophyllum Pinnatum

This succulent is also known as Bryophyllum calycinum or Kalanchoe pinnata. It has many nicknames, including Air Plant, Miracle Leaf and Resurrection Plant. The Bryophyllum pinnatum can grow to 6 feet tall with 8-inch leaves. Hawaii considers this an invasive plant.

Bryophyllum Daigremontianum

Bryophyllum daigremontianum (Kananchoe daigremontiana) is commonly called Mother of Thousands, Mother of Millions, Devil's Backbone and Mexican Hat Plant. The plant is suited to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9b through 11, and can grow to 3 feet tall with 6-inch leaves.

Bryophyllum Fedtschenkoi

Also known as Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, this Bryophyllum grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 9b through 11. The plant grows only 15 inches tall and does best in light shade. Blossoms appear in winter and early spring and attract hummingbirds.

Other Bryophyllums

Several other varieties of Bryophyllum grow plantlets on their leaves. These include Bryophyllum crenatum (Kalanchoe laxiflora), Bryophyllum luzac-marchaliae (Kalanchoe serrata) and Bryophyllum sanctulum (Kalanchoe sanctula).

Problems With Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana


Kalanchoes are susceptible to fungal diseases during periods of high humidity. Patches of dusty white or gray powder on the leaves and stems of Kalanchoes are symptoms of powdery mildew. Bortytis causes fuzzy brownish to gray patches of mold on plant parts. Remove and destroy infected plant parts. Phytophthora crown rot affects the crown of the plant, causing it to deteriorate and die. The plant should be removed and destroyed.

Environmental Problems

Kalanchoes may have fewer flowers or none at all if the temperature is too high or low. The optimum temperature for Kalanchoes is between 65 and 80 degrees. Edema refers to a condition where the plant cells absorb too much water and rupture. It is caused by a combination of low light, high humidity and wet potting soil. Corky or warty spots on the leaves are symptoms of edema. Do not overwater Kalanchoes during periods of high humidity and/or low light.

Other Problems

Pale, small, distorted new growth on Kalanchoes can be a sign of zinc deficiency. Apply a micro-nutrient fertilizer containing zinc, at the rate recommended by the manufacturer for Kalanchoes. Kalanchoes are sensitive to chemicals, so the use of fungicides or pesticides is not recommended. Prune infected plant parts. Wash off insects with a watering can or hose, or remove by hand.

Kalanchoe Plant Information


The leaves have scalloped edges and the star-shaped flowers grow in clusters. The flowers can bloom for as long as 10 weeks and can grow to a height of 18 inches and a width of 12 inches.


Kalanchoe can grow in normal household temperatures, but not lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be placed in a south-facing window in winter and east or west the rest of the year. where it can get a good deal of indirect sunlight.


Plant in well-drained soil, consisting of a mixture of peat moss, sand or perlite and sterile potting soil. Use a pot that has drainage holes.


Allow the soil to go dry to a depth of from 1 to 1 ½ inches.between waterings Give the plant a balanced liquid fertilizer every three weeks when not dormant and when in bloom. When it stops flowering, take off the dead flowers, place the plant in bright light and fertilize twice a month.


Too much water will cause root rot. Too little water will cause the lower leaves to shrivel up and turn yellow. Kalanchoe is relatively disease free but can have problems with scale, mealy bugs, root mealy bugs and mites.

How to Care for a Kalanchoe Houseplant

Give your kalanchoe houseplant plenty of sunlight each day. Setting the plant in front of a south or west-facing window provides adequate lighting. During the summer, place the plant outside in the morning for a few hours of direct sunlight.

Keep the temperature between 70 to 75 degrees F during the day for best results. Nighttime temperature should be about 10 degrees lower than daytime temperatures. Kalanchoe does not need overly humid conditions; regular house humidity is fine.

Water only when the top 1 inch of soil has dried out, usually every other day or so. For best results, grow your houseplant in a container with drainage holes to avoid root rot.

Fertilize every two weeks starting in the spring. Use a common houseplant food and water in well after applying. Once the plant starts blooming, cut back to fertilizing only once a month.

Remove dead flowers and leaves to keep the plant in good condition. If the leaves get dusty, spray with water to clean.


After blooming, re-plant your Kalanchoe in a container one size up from the previous one. To re-bloom your plant, set it in a dark area for six weeks once it finishes blooming. Kalanchoe needs dark conditions to force blooms again.


Avoid keeping your plant in direct sunlight for more than 2 to 3 hours at a time. Do not let the nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. Never let Kalanchoe sit in standing water.

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