Step-by-Step Guide to Growing and Caring for Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells) at Home

Kalanchoe pinnata is a stunning succulent with light green leaves coated with a hint of red. While the foliage alone is enough of a reason to add this plant to your home, its flowers make it a must-have. The plant sends up a tall flower stalk covered in small bell-shaped pink and yellow blooms. These flowers explain the common name Cathedral Bells. Fortunately, this plant is easy to grow at home as long as you provide a warm and bright environment. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about growing and caring for Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells) at home including planting, soil considerations, light preferences, feeding, pruning, and over-winter care. 


How to Grow Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells) – The Essentials

Botanical Name:Kalanchoe pinnata
Also Known As:Cathedral bells, life plant, miracle plant, Goethe plant
Growing Difficulty:Easy to moderate difficulty
Light Requirements:At least six hours of bright, direct, or indirect light
Temp & Humidity:Thrives in temperatures between 60-85ºF, prefers low to moderate humidity
Watering Needs:Water every two to three weeks in the spring and summer and every three to four weeks in fall and winter; soak the soil thoroughly and then wait until the top two inches are dry before watering again
Soil Preferences:Well-draining, sandy soil; a cacti/succulent mix works well
Fertilizing:Fertilize once in late spring and once in midsummer with a diluted balanced fertilizer
Growth Expectations:Can grow up to four feet tall
Toxicity:Toxic in large quantities

About Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells)

About Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells)

Plant Family, Genus, and Species

  • Family: Crassulaceae (stonecrop family)
  • Genus: Kalanchoe
  • Species: pinnata

Naturalists originally named this plant Bryophyllum pinnatum. When the Bryophyllum genus became part of the Kalanchoe genus, it was renamed Kalanchoe pinnata.

Origins and History

Kalanchoe pinnata is native to the coast of Madagascar. In its native habitat, it grows along rocky and sandy shores.

Over time, the plant made its way to other tropical areas. It is currently naturalized in areas including Australia, India, Brazil, and Hawaii.

It is considered a nuisance in some areas since it chokes out native vegetation.

Kalanchoe Pinnata Botanical Characteristics

Kalanchoe Pinnata Botanical Characteristics

Cathedral Bells is a type of succulent. Like all succulents, it has thick leaves that hold moisture.

These rounded leaves are oppositely arranged and have scalloped edges. While they are frequently light green, they may take on a red hue.

Small plantlets or pups sometimes develop along leaf margins.

When the plant is young, it doesn’t appear to have many stems. As the plant grows, it develops a thin and hollow stem.

When cathedral bells plants are ready to flower, they send up a tall flower stalk. Flowers appear in a multi-branched form known as a panicle inflorescence. Individual flowers resemble small pink and yellow bells.

Uses & Benefits of Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants

Uses & Benefits of Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants

People around the world have used Kalanchoe pinnata to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. This is why it is garnered the name miracle plant and life plant.

In Trinidad and Tobago, people use leaves to treat bladder problems as well as high blood pressure. In other parts of the world, it has been used to treat issues including bruises, inflammation, and eye infections.

While some of these treatments have not been studied, research supports many of these positive effects.

Kalanchoe Pinnata Toxicity

The toxicity of Kalanchoe pinnata is a bit confusing.

Although small doses of the plant have been used to treat medical conditions in humans, the plant is also toxic to humans and animals.

Studies show that these plants contain two types of toxins: phenanthrene and bufadienolide. The latter can cause heart problems, especially in hooved animals like cows and goats.

How Long Will Kalanchoe Pinnata Live?

With the proper care and environment, Kalanchoe pinnata can live for over ten years.

Meaning and Symbolism of Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants

As noted above, Kalanchoe pinnata is well known for its many medicinal properties. In some parts of the world, the plant is thought of as a type of miracle plant.

Some common names for the plant loosely translate to deathless plant or remarkable.


How to Grow Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) at Home  

How to Grow Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) at Home

Growth Expectations

Cathedral bells can grow up to five feet tall. It is slow-growing, so it will take multiple years for it to grow this tall.

What to Do Before Planting Kalanchoe Pinnata

Before you add a Kalanchoe pinnata plant to your home, you’ll need to make sure you have the right environment for it.

Since these plants thrive when they receive lots of light, look for a bright location in your home. Once you’ve found a spot, make sure it can handle this plant’s growth. Remember it can grow up to five feet tall!

What’s the Best Soil Mix for Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants?

What's the Best Soil Mix for Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants?

Well-draining soil is essential. A potting mix labeled for cacti or succulents is a great choice.

You’ll want to avoid potting mixes labeled for houseplants. These mixes hold more water than Kalanchoe pinnata prefers.

If you’d like to make your own potting mix, combine the following: 

  • two parts sand
  • two parts peat moss
  • one part perlite

How to Plant

When you plant cathedral bells, you want to make sure you provide excellent drainage. This involves using a well-draining potting mix and selecting a container with drainage holes.

Kalanchoe Pinnata Light Preferences

Kalanchoe Pinnata Light Preferences

Cathedral bells need at least six hours of daily light. If they receive less light, they will appear stunted and weak.

They prefer direct sunlight, but they will also perform well in indirect light. The most important aspect is to make sure they receive enough hours of light.

One location that works well for this plant is near a south-facing window. A spot in a bright room or west-facing window will also work well.

Temperature & Humidity Preferences

Kalanchoe pinnata prefer temperatures that are between 65-85ºF. It is extremely sensitive to cold and will suffer if temperatures dip below 50ºF for an extended period of time.

Since this plant doesn’t like the cold, make sure to keep away from cool drafts. Avoid placing it near poorly insulated windows, exterior doors, and air conditioning vents.

As far as humidity, cathedral bells aren’t too picky. These plants prefer low to moderate humidity, but they can grow well in high humidity as well.


How to Care for Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) at Home

How to Care for Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) at Home

When and How to Water Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants

Since Kalanchoe pinnata plants can store water in their fleshy leaves, they can withstand periods of drought. With this in mind, be aware that overwatering is more common than underwatering.

During the spring and summer, Kalanchoe pinnata will only need to be watered every two to four weeks. When the shorter days of fall and winter arrive, you will only need to water once every one to two months.

You should water these plants when the top two inches of the potting mix is dry.

When you water, you want to aim for a soak and drain method. This involves thoroughly wetting the soil until water runs out the bottom of the container and then waiting until the soil is dry. By watering in this manner, you mimic the intense storms the plant experiences in its natural environment.

Do Kalanchoe Pinnata Need Fertilizing?

Do Kalanchoe Pinnata Need Fertilizing?

Cathedral bells plants don’t require much fertilizer. Applying fertilizer that is too strong or fertilizing too often can lead to salt buildups. In turn, your plants will suffer.

Fertilizing once in the late spring or early summer is sufficient. Choose a balanced fertilizer designed for succulents and dilute it to half the recommended strength.

Pruning

Cathedral bells don’t require much pruning, but you can trim them to keep them looking tidy. 

If your plant is growing too tall or too wide, use a pair of sanitized pruning shears to trim the tips of stems. Avoid removing more than one-third of the plant’s foliage at one time.

If you’re lucky enough to witness your plant flower, you’ll find the flowers will eventually die. When this happens, clip the flower stalk near the base of the plant. 

How to Propagate Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants

How to Propagate Kalanchoe Pinnata Plants

Kalanchoe pinnata is easy to propagate via the following methods.

Leaf or Stem Cutting

You can easily propagate a new plant via a leaf or stem cutting.

To take a stem cutting, use a sharp pair of shears to remove a piece of stem that is four to six inches long. Simply cut off a leaf to obtain a leaf cutting.

Once you have your leaf or stem cutting, follow these steps.

  1. Set your cutting in a cool, dark place until the wound heals over. This should only take a few days.
  2. Once the wound is healed, dip the cut end in a rooting hormone. While this is optional, it will speed up the rooting process.
  3. Place the cutting in a container of well-draining potting mix. You only need to bury 1/4 inch of the cutting. 
  4. Water well.
  5. Cover the container with a plastic bag or plastic container. This will help increase humidity.
  6. Wait two to four weeks for roots to form.
  7. Remove the plastic and treat the cutting as you would treat an established plant.

Plantlets

Kalanchoe pinnata plants sometimes produce plantlets along their leaf margins.

By removing these plantlets and placing them in potting soil, you can produce new plants.

Repotting Kalanchoe Pinnata

Cathedral bells will benefit from repotting every two to three years. When it’s time to repot, follow these steps.

  1. Obtain a container that is slightly larger than the old container. Make sure the new pot has drainage holes.
  2. Remove your plant from its container. Dust off any excess soil and inspect roots for any signs of rot. Trim any unhealthy roots.
  3. Add a couple of inches of fresh potting soil to the new container.
  4. Place the plant into the new pot.
  5. Fill the pot with fresh potting soil.
  6. Water well.

Common Kalanchoe Pinnata Problems & How to Treat Them

Common Kalanchoe Pinnata Problems & How to Treat Them

No Flowers

While Kalanchoe pinnata foliage is gorgeous, most growers would like them to flower. However, encouraging these plants to flower isn’t as easy as you may hope.

The most common causes of a lack of flowering are not enough light or too cold of a temperature.

Root Rot

Root rot is a type of fungus that affects plant roots. When roots become soft, they are unable to take up water and nutrients.

When a plant can’t obtain the water and nutrients it needs, it may turn yellow or look stunted.

Overwatering is the number one cause of root rot. Remember that Kalanchoe pinnata plants only need to be watered every few weeks.

If you suspect your plant has root rot, remove it from the pot to inspect the roots. Clip off any infected portions and repot the plant in fresh potting soil. From this point on, decrease the amount you water.

Aphids

Aphids are small insects with sucking mouthparts. They drink plant sap and may spread disease while feeding.

Aphids rapidly multiply, so it’s important to begin treatment as soon as you notice the pests.

You can wipe off small numbers of aphids using a soapy cloth. If you have a large infestation, you may spray your plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil.


Essential Tools

Essential House Plant Tools

You won’t need any special tools to care for Kalanchoe pinnata. Just make sure to use a container with drainage holes and a well-drained potting mix.


Wrapping Up

Cathedral bells are a great addition to any indoor space. As long as you provide enough light, keep the air warm, and water with restraint, you’ll have a healthy plant for years to come.


Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) FAQs

Yes! Kalanchoe pinnata makes a great indoor plant as long as it receives enough light.

A Kalanchoe pinnata plant can grow up to five feet tall.

These are relatively slow-growing plants. They will take multiple years to reach their full height.

Yes, Kalanchoe pinnata plants are toxic to pets.

Cathedral Bells will not thrive in low light. While it can survive in indirect light, it is unlikely to flower.


Author

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

Write A Comment

;