Connecting Greater Phoenix gardeners with information that helps put xeriscape principles into action.

Best Sun for Madagascar Palm

madagascar palmI can’t tell you how many Mad Palms I’ve killed from too much water, not enough water, too much sun, not enough sun…the list goes on. (No wonder they’re mad). I was ready to give up, but I wanted to try One. More. Time.

A keen friend happened to mention that she saw a beautiful Mad Palm (Pachypodium lamerei) in an East-facing portico. I took it to heart and moved my withering Palm to the east end of my patio. Lo and Behold! The couple hours of (intense) morning summer sun, coupled with watering when I get around to it, renders a good six inches of growth a year. And all that growth happens in July and August.

Madagascar Palm at the Desert Botanical GardenIt’s as if he’s standing up and singing at the top of his lungs! Now if I can only figure out what gets them to branch out like the one at the Desert Botanical Garden


Contain Yourself: Potted Kalanchoe

Pronounced “collin-co-wee,” this plant genus from Madagascar includes 125 species ranging in height from a few inches to tree-sized. The popular indoor plant variety is generally 2 to 4 inches tall and 2 to 4 inches in diameter.
Kalanchoe features a central cluster of delicate flowers in orange, red, pink, or white and blooms can last for many months. (See photo below.) Flowering plants can be purchased in pots as small as 2 inches, so some owners prefer to transplant them to a slightly larger and prettier container. A four-inch pot is plenty large enough for one plant, and a 6-inch container could be used to cluster two or three plants together.
When preparing a new pot for kalanchoes, keep in mind that these plants are succulent, meaning their fleshy leaves store water, so much like a cactus, they don’t like to be over-watered. They need a soil that drains well, typically half peat and half sand or perlite. The pot, of course, needs to have a hole in the bottom for drainage. A few pebbles in the bottom of the pot will help, as well.
While it’s blooming, watering once a week should be sufficient. Make sure containers drain thoroughly. Left in wet soil, the roots can be prone to rot, so be sure the soil dries out between waterings. An ordinary plant fertilizer can also be applied about once every two weeks.
Other than avoiding direct sun in the hotter months, kalanchoes can tolerate a wide variety of lighting conditions, though faring best in bright indirect light. (You’ll recognize too much sun exposure when the leaves begin to look “sunburned.”)

kalanchoePronounced “kal-uhn-koh-ee,” this succulent features thick, waxy leaves and clusters of charming blooms that last for months. The blooms can range in color from white, to orange, to red. And since it is one of our heartier imports from Madagascar, it will fill a pot almost anywhere you put it.

Kalanchoes are easy to find. If you don’t have a nursery nearby, check the grocery stores. They are in the floral depatment. Species range in height from a few inches to tree-sized, but the most common ones you will find will grow 12-18 inches depending on how you care for it.

Although happiest in bright shade, Kalanchoes can tolerate a few hours of sunlight, even in the intense summer sun of Phoenix. Plant in well drained soil, and allow the soil to dry between waterings. Deadhead to the first node, and prune by breaking off stems.

Pruned stems root easily and should be placed in a cool, dry place to “heal.” This will take a few days. Use soil that drains well and bury the ends in soil up to the first leaf to root.  Judicious watering—being sure not to overwater—will ensure your trimming will be happy in its new home. I prune a couple times a year and have gifts on hand for birthdays.

While blooming, water once a week and more often in summer. Be sure the soil dries out between waterings. Plant fertilizer can also be applied about once every two weeks, but you may not need to feed that often. Just keep an eye on it. If the blooms seem to be fading, give it a shot.

Whether for a centerpiece on the table top or a grand display by the front door, Kalanchoe will grow well in any sized pot and supply year-round color. With it’s hearty nature and ease in propagating they turely are the gifts that keep on giving.