How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Mother of Thousands Plants

Thinking of adding a mother of thousands plant to your indoor garden? These plants have become quite popular due to their low maintenance needs. In this article, gardening expert Melisssa Strauss takes you through everything you need to know about this popular succulent and their care.

Mother of Thousands plant growing in garden outdoors.

Mother of Thousands, also commonly known as Devil’s Backbone, Alligator Plant, and Mexican Hat Plant, is a member of the genus Kalanchoe, and a fascinating plant indeed. This species of kalanchoe is native to Madagascar, which is something of a marvel itself, with up to 90% of its flora being endemic to the island. This means that it cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Mother of thousands, fortunately, is easy to find and easy to cultivate.

This pretty little succulent is easy to grow and care for, and above all, it is exceptionally easy to propagate. It is easy to see how this plant earned its name simply by looking at it. With its tiny little offspring sprouting at the perimeter of every leaf the mother plant can, quite literally, produce thousands of babies in a growing season.

For this reason, when grown in a container, this means a lovely pot, overflowing with these pretty plants. However, in the garden, this very same characteristic can have very different implications. Mother of Thousands can be very invasive if planted in the ground in zones 9-11. It will spread quickly and can choke out other native plant life.

Let’s delve into the world of Kalanchoe Daigremontiana and discuss the care and keeping of this fun and low maintenance plant.

Mother of Thousands Plant Overview

A green succulent growing in the garden with sunlight hitting the tips of the leaves.
Plant Type Succulent
Season Winter
Pests Aphids, Mealybugs, Scale
Family Crassulaceae
Exposure Bright Indirect Sunlight
Diseases Root Rot
Genus Kalanchoe
Plant Spacing ½” minimum
Maintenance Low
Species Daigremontiana
Planting Depth Surface Level
Soil Type Well Draining, Sandy
Native Area Madagascar
Height 18”-36” tall
Plant with Succulents
Hardiness Zone 9-11 (Houseplants elsewhere)
Watering Needs Low
Attracts Hummingbirds

Classification

Close-up of the gorgeous vibrant green leaves of K. daigremontiana against a blurred background. The leaves are spreading, fleshy, long, with pointed ends. Many small plantlets grow on the jagged edges of the leaves.
This plant is a popular succulent from the Kalanchoe genus.

Previously classified as part of the genus Bryophyllum, Mother of Thousands, or Daigremontiana, has been reclassified into the Kalanchoe genus.

You may be familiar with some of the more floriferous members of this genus, as they are quite common and make wonderful garden border plants with their pretty, long lasting, little flowers in vivid colors that are very tolerant of hot and dry weather.

While K. daigremontiana are flowering plants, their flowers are not their most distinguishing feature, and thus, they are not generally grown for this purpose. Rather, they are a type of succulent, and as such, they make great house plants, and can take quite a bit of neglect as long as they find their way into a sunny window.

While Kalanchoe x laetivirens is also sometimes called by the same name, for the purpose of this guide, we will focus on a single species K. daigremontiana, as well as addressing some hybrid varieties of interest.

Leaf Formations

A close-up of one bright green leaf of a succulent plant against a blurred background of other green leaves. The leaf is oblong, oval with a pointed end and many tiny plantlets along the edges. These tiny plantlets are made up of two rounded leaves and one thin, oblong leaf in the middle.
This plant has large, bright green leaves with thousands of tiny plantlets that grow from jagged edges.

The leaves of K. daigremontiana are the most common selling point. The leaves are large (up to 8” long) and serrated. They typically are a fairly bright green color, although some varieties have a bit of pink coloration, and some are a more muted shade of green.

Mother of Thousands can grow up to 3’ tall in some instances, although this is not common. Most plants will end up between 18”-24” tall. When they grow much taller than this, the plant can become leggy and scraggly in appearance.

This is an easy problem to fix though, and a very resilient little plant when given a very small amount of time and attention.

The most noteworthy characteristic of this plant’s leaves, and really, the plant as a whole, are the thousands of tiny plantlets that grow from the serrated edges of the leaves on the mother plant. These tiny plantlets will drop from their host at the slightest brush of a hand and can more or less take root wherever they land.

Flowers

Close-up of a blooming Kalanchoe succulent against a blurred green background. Clusters of coral-pink bell-shaped flowers hanging from sturdy reddish branches, reminiscent of chandeliers.
If the plant is grown in the right conditions, it can produce beautiful clusters of coral-pink, bell-shaped flowers.

As mentioned earlier, Mother of Thousands is not typically grown for its flower production. That said, this succulent does produce flowers under the right conditions, and they are quite lovely. The flowering habits of this plant are unpredictable at best though, and you may have a plant for years and never see it bloom.

So how do I make them bloom, you ask? Well, the answer is multifaceted. First, the plant must have the correct light conditions. As with most flowering plants, more light equals more flowers.

Keeping your plant outdoors in the summer months will give it the light it needs to begin this process. Occasionally, a K. daigremontiana will send up its flower spikes after it has been brought indoors for the winter, after having spent the warmer months outside.

As with most flowering succulents, it is not uncommon for someone who has one of these plants to have no idea that it flowers, or what its flowers look like. But as with most flowering succulents, when the flowers happen, it is a little bit magical.

Long spikes grow from the center of the plant branching out near the ends. Clusters of coral-pink, bell-shaped blooms cascade from the branches, resembling something like I would expect a magical fairy’s dining room chandelier to look.

The downside to these wonderful blooms is that they are literally once in a lifetime. As with a number of flowering succulents, when the flower spike dies, so does the mother plant… Fortunately, these plants are exceptionally easy to propagate and you will find yourself with more than you know what to do with, if you choose to allow the plantlets to take root.

Propagation

Mother of Thousands is quite possibly the easiest plant to propagate that I have ever encountered. It can be done in two ways, but one is more of a formality that ensures a larger plant from the beginning, while the other, more surefire method guarantees you will have as many of these plants as you desire, with just a tiny bit more patience.

Propagating from Cuttings

Close-up of one cut leaf of the "Mother of Thousands" plant on a white background. Oval, oblong, fleshy, rich green leaf with serrated edges and a small cut white stem. Small sprouts grow along one edge of the leaf.
Cut off the leaf with a sharp knife and let the cut end heal before planting it in the potting mix.

Propagating from a cutting is simple enough. Use a clean, sharp knife to slice off a leaf close to the plant. Allow the cut end of the leaf to cure or heal over for a few days before placing it in its own container.

Then simply place it in a small pot and water it when the soil dries. This method is effective, and very likely to yield a new plant for you to enjoy. It is, however, somewhat unnecessary, as there is a simpler way to propagate.

Propagating from Plantlets

Close-up of the tiny pale green sprouts of the Kalanchoe plant on black soil. The sprouts consist of four fleshy oval leaves with slightly serrated edges.
Shake a few plantlets off of the plant leaf and plant them, root down, in a moist, potting mix.

The easiest way to propagate this plant is by taking advantage of its own natural method of reproduction. If you know someone with one of these plants, just brush a few plantlets off of the mother plant.

Then, place them root side down on damp, succulent potting mix, place in bright, indirect light, and wait for the magic to happen. These little plantlets will very quickly develop into full sized plants!

How to Grow

When it comes to growing these plants both indoors and outdoors, there are a few important factors that can impact their growth. You’ll need to make sure you understand their soil profile, water needs, sunlight requirements, and more. Let’s take a deeper look at all aspects of their maintenance and care.

Planting Depth and Potting Needs

Top view, close-up of many Mother of Thousands plant sprouts planted equally spaced in a round gold ceramic flower pot. The sprouts have 6-7 round small leaves, dark green in color with serrated edges. The soil is covered with white pebbles.
Choose a suitable size pot making sure the plant has good air circulation around the roots.

When growing from plantlets, you don’t have to dig a hole to place these plants in. Simply placing them root side down (the side where they were attached to the parent plant) on moist succulent potting mix will encourage them to root. If you are potting a mature plant, don’t use a pot that is significantly larger than the plant, it will grow rapidly.

Plant your Mother of Thousands plant in a pot that is similar to the size of the plant, and it will slow the growth a bit. This succulent needs plenty of air circulation around the roots. The best type of pot for this is a terracotta pot with drainage at the bottom.

Terracotta naturally wicks water away from the roots. To further improve drainage, you can place some stones in the bottom of the pot to lift the roots and create more circulation at the bottom of the root system.

Potting them with other plants can be complicated. The plantlets quickly fill in any open space in a container and this can choke out any companion plants that are in the same container. A pot of its own is the ideal place for this plant.

Sunlight

A close-up of the leaves of a Kalanchoe plant lit by sunlight from a window. The leaves are large, oval with pointed ends and serrated edges. Tiny dark green plantlets grow on serrated edges.
This succulent needs bright, indirect sunlight to thrive.

Kalanchoe is a succulent, so it does like a lot of bright light. Most varieties like at least 6 hours daily. However, too much direct sun can cause leaf scorch which will ultimately rot the leaves.

If your Mother of Thousands is a houseplant, placing it near a nice bright window is perfect. Keep these guidelines in mind outdoors as well, and don’t place your kalanchoe plants in direct sunlight for most of the day.

I keep my kalanchoe plants outdoors as long as possible. In zone 8, there are only a few weeks during the winter when they need shelter from freezing temperatures.

My plants enjoy a sunny spot under the covering of a patio where they don’t get more than an hour or two of direct sun, but they get lots of indirect light all day.

Water

A close-up of a Kalanchoe stem with its large, oval, light green leaves covered with small drops of water. The leaves are oval, fleshy with jagged edges on which small sprouts grow.
This succulent is drought tolerant but still requires watering every 5-7 days.

How much you water your Mother of Thousands will depend on its container and location. Kalanchoe plants are drought tolerant, but not as much as some other succulent varieties. These plants need excellent drainage, like most succulents.

When kept as a houseplant, watering once every two weeks during the growing season is sufficient. In the winter, every three weeks should be plenty. 

When kept outside in a pot, kalanchoe need water every 5-7 days. Water evaporates faster outdoors, so more frequent watering becomes necessary. When the weather cools, if you keep your kalanchoe outside, decrease watering to once every 1-2 weeks.

Plants need less water when they are outside of their growing season. Because the plant absorbs less water during times of less growth, it will be more susceptible to root rot, so water sparingly in winter.

Soil

Close-up of just planted tiny plantlets of a succulent in moist loose soil. Plantlets have four rounded blue-green leaves.
It is recommended to use soil mixtures for growing succulents or cactus.

This succulent needs well drained soil. A commercially available succulent or cactus potting mix will work well in potting these plants. Choose a potting medium that has good drainage, and a combination of larger particles.

Steer away from any peat moss based potting medium as this will hold too much water.  If you prefer to make your own potting mix, you can add coarse sand to regular potting mix.

Other options to mix in with your regular potting mix are perlite, pumice, or vermiculite. All of these mediums will help to keep your soil loose and aerated.

Climate and Temperature

Closeup of a Kalanchoe plant potted in a red plastic pot. The pot is resting on a table or the ground made of concrete.
Mother of Thousands needs a temperature around 65°-75°.

Mother of Thousands is hardy in zones 9-11. If you live in these zones, it is perfectly fine to leave your kalanchoe plants outdoors year-round.

At temperatures below 40° they will begin to suffer. These plants cannot survive freezing, so they need to be brought inside before there is any chance of freezing temperatures.

This succulent actually prefers to be kept around 65°-75°, which is just right for most humans as well. Keeping these plants indoors, in a sunny spot will keep them quite happy.

Remember that they may not bloom if they don’t get adequate light, so consider moving your plants outdoors for a period during the warmer months in any climate, if you want to see them produce those pretty flowers.

Fertilizing

Top view, close-up of a white tray full of a mixture of granular houseplant fertilizers with a garden small shovel on a gray table. Orange, white and brown granular fertilizers mixed in a tray. Near the tray, there are containers filled with round orange drainage pebbles, orange and brown granular fertilizers and flowery decorative pebbles.
You can fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season.

These plants have very little need for fertilizer. In fact, they don’t need any at all in fall and winter. During the growing season, which is from about March through September, you can fertilize every 3-4 months.

Twice yearly should be plenty for most plants. Use a well-balanced liquid fertilizer and dilute it by half. If you don’t fertilize at all, don’t worry, this plant is efficient when it comes to utilizing nutrients.

Pruning and Maintenance

Close-up of growing sprouts of Bryophyllum daigremontianum in a clay pot. The sprouts are young, light green in color, have rounded fleshy leaves with serrated edges. Some leaf margins have a pinkish-orange tint.
This succulent does not require pruning, except for the removal of damaged foliage.

Mother of Thousands is a very low maintenance plant. As we have discussed, it needs moderate watering and little to no fertilization. Pruning is not a necessity either, aside from trimming away brown or damaged foliage.

Trimming away damaged foliage can be done any time. You can pinch off these leaves, or cut them, with a clean sharp tool. If your plant is looking leggy, just trim off the top above a large leaf in the springtime. This will encourage branching out and help your plant fill in that empty space.

Toxicity

Top view, close-up of many growing sprouts of a Kalanchoe plant in a black flower pot outdoors. The leaves are oval with tapered ends and serrated edges. The leaves are bright green with an orange-red tint towards the edges. There are also tiny green plantlets growing on some of the jagged edges.
All parts of this succulent are toxins for both humans and pets.

All parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals. They should be kept out of the reach of children and pets if there is any concern of them being ingested.

Most recognized varieties of Mother of Thousands are hybrid varieties made by crossing K. daigremontiana with other species of kalanchoe. Here are 3 beautiful hybrid varieties that we think you will like.

Pink Butterflies

Top view close-up of Butterflies on a blurred background. The leaves are bright green, fleshy, long, narrow with bright pink sprouts along the edges of the leaves. Pink sprouts are shaped like tiny butterflies.
‘Pink Butterflies’ produces beautiful narrow leaves with bright pink plantlets.
Scientific Name: Kalanchoe ‘Pink Butterflies’
  • Bloom Time:  Winter
  • Geographical Location:  Madagascar
  • Sun Exposure: Bright Indirect Light
  • Plant Zone: 9-11

This fascinating variety is a hybrid between K. daigremontiana and K. delagoensis. What makes it unique is its variegated appearance. This variety is tall and slender with narrower leaves than most varieties.

The leaves themselves are green, but the plantlets grow in a bright pink color! All of these pretty plantlets have the appearance of thousands of tiny pink butterflies resting on the edges of the leaves.

The variegation is caused by a lower than usual amount of chlorophyll. Much like a Pink Princess Philodendron, the parts of the plant with less chlorophyll come in pink.

This variety is rather fragile and more difficult to grow, but with a little patience and some healthy plantlets, you should be on your way to growing your very own Pink Butterflies Kalanchoe.

Houghtonii

Close-up of many Kalanchoe x Houghtonii plants growing. This succulent has an upright, unbranched stem that bears boat-shaped leaves with serrated edges and blue-grey shoots that form at the edges.
‘Houghtonii’ is a hybrid characterized by narrower leaves at the base with dark brown stripes.
Scientific Name: Kalanchoe x Houghtonii
  • Bloom Time:  Winter
  • Geographical Location:  Madagascar
  • Sun Exposure: Bright Indirect Light
  • Plant Zone: 9-11

This variety is a hybrid between K. daigremontiana and K. delagoensis as well. Characterized by a narrower appearance at the base of the leaves, this variety is much easier to propagate and care for than Pink Butterflies.

The sems are long and thin and the leaves are as well. The leaves are a grayish green color and have some darker brown striations.

This hybrid is commonly referred to as Mother of Millions, because it has smaller and more plentiful leaves, and produces many, and smaller plantlets; it appears to have millions of tiny plantlets on each leaf!

Laetivirens

Close-up of the fleshy green leaves of Kalanchoe x laetivirens. The leaves are thick, large, oblong, oval, slightly curved inward with tiny bluish-green plantlets as teeth.
This hybrid has large, slightly curved, fully green leaves with tiny, tooth-like plantlets on the edges.
Scientific Name: Kalanchoe x laetivirens
  • Bloom Time:  Early Spring
  • Geographical Location:  Madagascar
  • Sun Exposure: Bright Indirect Light
  • Plant Zone: 9-11

Another hybrid, this time using K. laxifloira (Brophyllum crenatum), this is a lovely variety. The leaves are large and slightly curved, giving the appearance of an alligator’s open mouth, with all the tiny plantlets as teeth.

The name Laetivirens (lushly green) refers to the leaves which are completely green rather than being variegated like most hybrids.

The plantlets are a deeper green color than the parent plant, which is a brilliant, bright green. Some plants have a bluish tint to the leaves and plantlets. This flowering hybrid produces bell shaped blooms in white or yellow, sometimes tinged with pink.

Pests and Diseases

When kept as houseplants, kalanchoe don’t have very many issues with pests and diseases, but there are a few things to look out for when giving your Mother of Thousands a once over. Sometimes pests come in on a new plant and move around to established plants. So being vigilant about checking new plants is a good practice to keep.

With any of these pest issues and diseases, the first thing to do is to isolate the plant, so that you’re not getting rid of them from the one plant, only to have them pop up on a neighboring plant.

Aphids

A swarm of small insects An aphid sits on a pinkish stem, sucking the juice out of it. The aphid has a green small oval body with thin legs. Withered buds of purple flowers hang from the stem.
The aphids suck the juice out of the plant, making it weak and susceptible to disease.

Aphids are tiny insects with soft bodies that suck the sap from your plants and leave behind a nasty white residue. Kalanchoe have thick, juicy leaves that are very attractive to aphids.

Aphids will be visible to the eye, but you may not notice them until they begin to damage the plant. If you notice the leaves are curling, or shriveling up, and generally look like something is sucking the life out of them, flip the leaf over and look for aphids. They can be green, black or red.

If your plant has aphids, spray it will a solution of soapy water or neem oil. This will eliminate the aphids by blocking their ability to breathe and suffocating them. Don’t panic if more eggs hatch and you have to re-treat in a week or two. The sticky residue they leave behind should be wiped away by hand with a clean, soft cloth.

Scales

A close-up of two tiny scales on a green succulent leaf. The scales are brown, wingless, oval, flat with a protective shell coating.
You can get rid of scales by wiping Kalanchoe with a damp cloth or neem oil.

Scales are tiny, brown, armored insects that also find kalanchoe plants to be a delicious and satisfying meal. Young scales will move around, but as they get older, they will more or less stay in one place and eat.

If you notice your leaves turning yellow and see tiny brown speckles under the leaves, you probably have scale.

You can wipe scales off of the plant with a damp cloth, and if the infestation is bad, neem oil will be effective in eliminating these guys as well. You can also wipe with a q tip soaked in alcohol.

Mealybugs

Close-up of about 4 mealybugs on a green succulent leaf. Mealybugs are small, white, oval, waxy insects.
You can get rid of the Mealybugs with the help of alcohol or pesticides.

Mealybugs are small white insects that hide beneath the leaves and feed on those juicy leaves. Mealy bugs can be wiped with an alcohol-soaked q tip to kill them, for a bad infestation, pesticides may be necessary.

Root Rot

Close-up of two succulent plants in a brown plastic pot against a blurred background of potted plants. The plant is a single-stemmed succulent with large, bright green, pointed, slightly incurved leaves with small plantlets along the edges. Some leaves are yellowish-brown at the margins and have dry brown tips.
Fungal root rot is most often caused by overwatering.

The main, non-pest, issue that kalanchoe face is fungal root rot. Thelaviopsis root rot, also known as black root rot, is a particular issue for kalanchoe.

This fungal disease causes badly rotted roots and stunts the growth of the plant. It will eventually kill the plant if left untreated. This problem crops up most often in cool, wet conditions, and manifests as a black and cracked central stem, and dying, dropping leaves.

The main culprit of any kind of root rot is overwatering. Treating your plant’s roots with benzimidazole fungicides and repotting will give it the best chance at survival. If the roots are very badly rotted, though, it’s best to dispose of the plant to avoid spreading the fungus to other plants.

Powdery Mildew

Close-up of thin long leaves affected by powdery mildew against a blurred background. Dark green leaves are covered with a white powdery coating.
Due to an excess of moisture in the air, your plant may be susceptible to powdery mildew.

This fungal disease is another that commonly affects this particular succulent and is a result of too much moisture, usually in the air.

This is a less serious issue and can usually be treated successfully, but the conditions need to be changed or it will return. Kalanchoe do not like a lot of humidity, so the bathroom isn’t the best spot for these succulents.

Final Thoughts

Mother of Thousands is a wonderful plant that thrives indoors in bright, indirect light, and with little more than a good watering once every week or so. The leaves are large and lovely, and if you are lucky enough to see one bloom, you’re likely to spend a bit of effort to see it happen again.

While it is a wonderful potted plant, Mother of Thousands needs to be planted with care outdoors, as its rapid spreading habit can be an issue in choking out native species. This easy to propagate specimen is a fascinating plant that anyone can, and definitely should grow!

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