The panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) is a much-loved succulent known for its interesting pattern and velvety soft feel. In fact, the botanical name of this fun little house plant literally means "covered with fine hairs." Like many succulents, they are easy to care for and make for a perfect companion in a well-lit room in your house. Native to Madagascar, these little succulents can thrive with a little bit of TLC.
- Botanical Name: Kalanchoe tomentosa
- Common Name: Donkey ears, chocolate soldiers, plush plant, cat ears
- Plant Type: Succulent
- Mature Size: 2 feet tall
- Sun Exposure: Medium to bright light
- Soil Type: Fast-draining cactus soil
- Soil pH: 6.1 to 6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to pets
Panda Plant Care
Like many indoor succulents, a panda plant is a hardy, drought-resistant little plant as long as you follow a few key rules. To start, avoid overwatering. Too much water can cause root rot and due to the large size of this plant's leaves, it can store water for many days. It should only be watered when the soil is dry to the touch.
Typically a panda plant needs at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, but it can withstand even more and thrives in bright light. This is the perfect plant to place right by a window. You can move it outdoors in the summer, but ensure the temperatures don't fall under 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to their slow-growing nature, they rarely need to be repotted. If they do, you shouldn't have to re-pot these plants more than once every two years. Once it reaches about 1 to 2 feet, it has likely stopped growing and you can keep it in the same pot.
In its native habitat a panda plant will actually flower, but it rarely does when potted indoors.
Best Growing Conditions for Panda Plants
Panda plants thrive in full, direct sun, but they can also be quite happy in medium sun as well. Just be sure they get at least 6 hours of sun a day. When planting, pick a soil formulated for cacti or succulents that is well graining. While they need water, they are very drought-resistant and can easily rot out.
A slow-release fertilizer will keep this plant healthy, but you only need to fertilize from spring until the middle of the summer. When the panda plant is dormant, it does not need to be given fertilizer.
If you start to notice your panda plant getting "leggy" or it develops large spaces between the stems and the leaves, it needs more sun and should be moved closer to a window. The ideal temperature for this plant is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can stand a few days as low as 35 degrees.
Types of Panda Plants
The panda plant is part of the Crassulaceae family of plants. There are over 100 varieties of the Kalanchoe tomentosa plant that grow in the wild. They are all soft succulents with a few differences. For example, some of the most common types include "cathedral bells" (known for their distinctive scalloped leaves), "chandelier plant" (recognizable for its red-orange flowers) and the "paddle plant" (similar to the panda plant but without the soft velvety feel).
How to Propagate Panda Plants
When it comes to propagating a panda plant, the ideal time is in the spring through leaf cuttings.
How to Propagate Panda Plants via Leaf Cuttings
Step 1: Use sharp gardening shears to cut a leaf as close to the steam as possible. Pick a healthy leaf without discoloration. Ensure no part of the leaf is left on the stem (you may need to repeat until you get a clean cut).
Step 2: Put the leaf in an empty bowl and let it dry out for 3 to 4 days.
Step 3: Once the cutting has developed a callous, you can place it directly in an inch of cacti soil and water lightly. Place in bright indirect light and within a month your cutting should grow roots.
Common Problems With Panda Plants
Though panda plants are considered easy-care plants, they are still subject to a few problems if you are not careful. The biggest reason a panda plant dies is due to overwatering and root rot. It is essential to not water your panda plant unless the soil has completely dried to the touch. If you notice yellowing, mushy leaves you are likely overwatering. To fix, pluck the damaged leaves and let the soil fully dry out.
Mealybugs are also drawn to the panda plant due to the soft leaves. Small numbers of mealybugs can be physically removed, but an infestation requires treatment with alcohol and neem oil.
Are Panda Plants Easy to Care for?
When it comes to typical houseplants, the panda plant is easy to care for. A succulent like this can thrive when it is neglected, and in fact, too much attention when it comes to a lot of watering can kill it.
How Fast do Panda Plants Grow?
An indoor panda plant typically grows no larger than 2 feet and less than a couple of inches per year.
How Long Can Panda Plants Live?
A panda plant can live for up to 10 years in ideal conditions indoors. This includes adequate sunlight and watering.