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Paddle Plant Care (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora): 9 Tips to Know

You’ve got to check out the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, better known as the paddle plant! Its odd leaf shape and color are a sight for sore eyes, and they remind me of a plump cabbage head.

Did you know this quirky plant has deep roots (pun intended!) in folk medicine? Its juice has been used since long ago to treat all sorts of skin troubles, from burns to rashes, and even whip up some good old salves and decoctions.

Moreover, it’s easy to care for and can slide into any room decor. Plus, it’s a hot ticket item in landscape design.

Botanical description with photo

Let’s dive deeper into this cool-as-a-cucumber succulent. Part of the Crassulaceae family, the paddle plant is a perennial succulent that can shoot up to around 24 inches tall. Its leaves?

They’re big, thick, and round as a dinner plate, stretching 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. These leaves swing from a gray-green to a yellowish-green shade, all dressed with red edges and perched on sturdy stalks.

The paddle plant’s yellow buds bloom on tall, branching stalks, earning it the nickname “flapjack.”

But don’t count your chickens before they hatch; getting this green guy to flower at home can be like herding cats, and sometimes, it’s just not on the cards.

Despite this, the paddle plant’s a trooper, sporting a tuberous root system with a branched yet modestly short taproot.

Let’s dive into some of the most popular home-growing varieties.

1- Red Lips

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora 'Red Lips.'

Meet Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Red Lips.’ This variety sports a fascinating leaf color scheme – green, gray, and red, creating an intriguing border.

The leaves can reach about 6 inches (15 cm) with a height of about 12 inches (30 cm). While it flowers, it doesn’t do so year-round, only in winter.

I suggest repotting this plant in the fall. It craves plenty of light and an air temperature between 59-68 degrees Fahrenheit (15-20 degrees Celsius).

2- Variegata

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora 'Variegata'

Next, we have Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Variegata,’ a paddle plant or sea cabbage. It’s one of the most popular and decorative varieties of Kalanchoe.

It has large, flat, round leaves ranging from bright to silvery green with a vibrant red border.

The plant grows very slowly and can reach a height of around 24 inches (60 cm). It flowers from fall to spring, giving off fragrant, beautiful yellow flowers.

3- Cristata (Thyrsiflora Cristata)

Lastly, let’s check out Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Cristata Monstruosa.’ You can find Kalanchoe’s most unusual and whimsical forms among the cristate varieties.

What does this mean? Cristation is a growth defect of the stem when the apical bud grows abnormally, and the developing stems become wide, flattened, and eventually wavy.

This interesting variety has large “rosettes” of silvery-white leaves with pinkish edges. This coloration is due to a waxy coating.

The leaves are large, dense, and vertically oriented. Like the leaves, the stem is covered with a thick layer of wax and lies flat.

How to Grow Kalanchoe thyrsiflora

This is a summer succulent that thrives in high temperatures. Cultivating it is easy, and it’s a hardy plant. It’s not prone to root rot, making it simple to care for.

However, being a member of the Kalanchoe genus, it’s sensitive to cold in winter. If temperatures dip below 41°F (5°C), you must bring it indoors.

Propagation is typically done by removing side shoots (pups). Leaf propagation is nearly impossible. As you cultivate it over time, the lower leaves gradually die off, and the stem starts to stand upright.

At this point, the plant will sprout small side shoots from the base of the withered leaves. Once they’ve grown a bit, you can cut them off and plant them in the soil.

In spring and fall, giving the plant plenty of sunlight is essential. Without enough sunlight, it will start to etiolate, growing tall and leggy. You can cut the stem and let it form new buds if it is too stretched.

Tips for Growing

  • Expose it to sunlight regularly in spring and fall
  • Water it no more than once a week
  • Avoid exposure to rain, as the white dust or farina can wash off
  • It’s sensitive to cold, so if temperatures drop below 41°F (5°C), move it to a window inside your home.

1- Watering

Despite having thin leaves, this succulent stores water in its stem and leaves. Therefore, it requires much less watering than typical plants, once a week during its active growing season from spring to fall.

Water the plant only when the soil thoroughly dries out, and the pot feels light. If the soil seems damp, hold off on watering.

As a general guideline, from March through May, water once a week until it drains from the bottom of the pot when the soil is dry. 

For June through August, reduce the amount and water about twice a month. In September through November, go back to watering once a week until it drains from the bottom when the soil is dry.

From December through February, dampen the surface about once a month.

Adjustments are Key

However, these are just guidelines. You need to adjust according to the year’s climate, location, type of soil, and plant size.

During the winter dormant period, you might water lightly once a month or not at all. However, if you’re growing the plant indoors where it’s warm, it may need more watering about half the pot once a month.

2- Placement

Place the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora plant in a spot protected from rain and with good airflow.

Typically, it should be outside in the sun, but from early summer through early fall, it will need shade. During winter, it’s often brought indoors.

Put it outside in direct sunlight from March through May to give you a more specific guideline. From June through September, move it to a bright shade (about 50% sunlight).

In October and November, place it back outside in direct sunlight. From December through February, it should be outside, away from the rain. If temperatures drop below 41°F (5°C), move it to a sunny window.

 Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, among succulents, crave strong sunlight. Too much shading can lead to etiolation (spindly growth). Sunbathing from fall to winter is important for the paddle plant to turn a beautiful deep red.

3- Heat Tolerance, Maximum Temperature, and Summer Management

This plant is relatively heat-tolerant and can withstand temperatures of 104-113°F (40-45°C) if in partial shade.

However, while it can endure these temperatures, the heat can cause the stem to elongate. This is something we just have to accept.

Using a Shade Cloth

From June through September, the direct sunlight can be very strong, and areas under the blazing sun can exceed 122°F (50°C). Therefore, providing about 30% shade is safer even for this succulent.

Specifically, you can set up a shade cloth that blocks about 30-50% of sunlight or move the plant to a bright shady area.

Summer management should be relatively easy if you avoid overwatering in bright shades.

4- Minimum Winter Temperature and Winter Management

This plant is weak to winter cold; its cold tolerance is about 37-41°F (3-5°C). Among succulents, it is relatively cold-resistant and will not die at 35.6°F (2°C), but you should absolutely avoid freezing.

To avoid freezing, if you’re growing the plant outdoors, it’s crucial to limit watering to increase its cold tolerance severely.

Some may use a simple vinyl greenhouse, but without a heating function, it offers little insulation effect, although it can protect against cold winds and snow. Therefore, bring it indoors before it gets seriously cold.

Indoors, a room that’s not heated too much (below 59°F or 15°C) is desirable. Since sunlight indoors is very weak, place it near a window to compensate for the lack of sunlight.


 Kalanchoe thyrsiflora is propagated through cuttings and offsets. Leaf propagation is almost impossible.

The best time is around April to June or September to October, but we recommend May to June. Try to finish before it gets too hot (avoid July-August) or do it by October before the cold gets severe.

Avoid December through February, as the cold will prevent roots from forming.

6- Cuttings and Offset Propagation

Cuttings refer to a propagation method where you take a stem from the parent plant and grow it separately.

In the case of the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, the stem doesn’t branch off separately, so the process is more similar to trunk cutting.

You can do this when the plant has grown exceptionally long, and you want to return it to its original shape.

Cleanly cut the stem with scissors, prop it up in an empty bottle, and wait for it to root. Once it has rooted a few millimeters, plant it in the soil and water it lightly.

Gradually increase the watering as the roots grow. Please carry out these steps in partial shade.

Offset Propagation

Offset propagation involves cutting off small buds that emerge from the plant base once they’ve grown to a certain size and planting them in a separate container.

The procedure for cutting to rooting is the same as for cuttings. Be careful not to cut off too small buds, as they may wither before they root. It’s safest to wait until they’re at least about 1.18 inches (3 cm) long.

7- Repotting

Repotting involves changing to a larger pot when the current one becomes too small, removing old roots, checking for pests or diseases on the roots, and adding fertilizer.

There’s an appropriate time for repotting: the growing period of March to June and September to October.

Small plants in pots of about 3.5 inches (9 cm) in diameter need to be repotted once a year, but the frequency can be reduced as the plant grows.

Succulents have fine roots; if planted for a long time, the pot can become root-bound, degrading drainage and aeration. Therefore, repotting is an important task.


Allow the soil to dry out for a few days to avoid damaging the roots before repotting. After pulling out the seedling from the pot, crumble the soil gradually and discard any brown, dead roots.

At the same time, check for root aphids (tiny white bugs that look like dust).

The old, hardened soil has poor aeration, so replace it with new soil. You can mix a small amount of slow-release fertilizer into the soil now.

If you have cut any roots, let them dry out for a few days, or plant them in completely dry soil and start watering after about three days.

8- Soil and Pots

As a succulent, I need soil that drains better and breathes more than usual. Regular soil for planting flowers retains too much water, so it’s best not to use it as is.

Ideally, you should look for soil labeled for succulents specifically formulated for their needs. When purchasing, it’s good to check whether or not the soil has been premixed with fertilizer.

Apart from buying commercial soil, there’s also the option of making your own soil. In this case, combine 1 part potting soil, 1 part sand, and 1 part perlite. 

Always remove any fine, powdery soil before using commercially available soil or your own blend.

Types of Pots

Pots mainly come in two types: plastic and ceramic. Both have their pros and cons. Plastic pots are lightweight and easy to handle, while ceramic pots are porous and drain well.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora can be planted in either, but if you’re a beginner, you might find plastic pots easier to manage.

You can also buy plastic pots from places like Amazon, home improvement stores allowing you to find the perfect size for your needs.

8- Fertilizer Application

Unlike plants planted directly in the ground, potted plants need regular feeding with fertilizer. In-ground plants get minerals and nutrients from nature, but potted plants can get washed out with watering. Plus, the space for roots to expand is limited.

However, as Kalanchoe thyrsiflora are succulents that grow in non-fertile soil, they don’t need as much fertilizer as other plants. About one-third to one-half of regular plants’ fertilizer is sufficient for succulents.

When repotting or planting, you can mix slow-release fertilizer into the soil, or for pots where you’re not reporting,  I like to add some liquid fertilizer (Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food works great) during the growing period (March-May, September-October).  

Over-fertilizing can lead to less vibrant fall foliage, elongated growth, or root damage from fertilizer burn, so be careful not to give too much.

9- Pests and Diseases

Pests and diseases are generally not a concern. Since the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora is a beautiful variety with farina (white coating), spraying pesticides can be challenging.

In this case, you may want to pre-apply a systemic insecticide, like Bonide Insect Control Systemic Granules, that is absorbed through the roots.

Finally, Annual Kalanchoe thyrsiflora Care Calendar

Growth PeriodApril – October
Dormancy PeriodDecember – February
Slow Growth PeriodAround March, November
WateringApril – May: Once a week, when soil is dry till it drains from the bottom of the pot. June – August: A bit less than April – May, about twice a month. September – November: Once a week, when soil is dry till it drains from the pot bottom. December – February: Dampen the surface about once a month.
LocationThe ideal time is around April – May
RepottingApril – May: Once a week when soil is dry till it drains from the bottom of the pot. June – August: A bit less than April – May, about twice a month. September – November: Once a week, when soil is dry till it drains from the pot bottom. December – February: Dampen the surface about once a month.
PropagationPup removal around April – June, September – October
FertilizationSlow-release fertilizer at planting, or liquid fertilizer once or twice a month around April – June

This table should provide a clear, concise overview of the care this plant needs throughout the year.

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