Kalanchoe Pinnata Plant Care Essentials

Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells) 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. Fortunately, this plant is easy to grow, in my experience, as long as you provide a warm and bright environment. Here’s everything I do to grow Kalanchoe pinnata at home, including planting, soil considerations, light preferences, feeding, pruning, and over-winter care. 

How to Grow Kalanchoe pinnata (Cathedral Bells)

Kalanchoe Pinnata Care – Key Takeaways:

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

How to Grow Kalanchoe Pinnata at Home  

A vibrant green Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) plant growing outdoors

Growth Expectations

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

What to Do Before Planting

Before you add a Kalanchoe pinnata plant to your home, you’ll need to ensure you have the right environment.

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!

Best Soil Types

Potting materials displayed including soil, pebbles, and plant pot for a Kalanchoe Pinnata plant

Well-draining soil is essential. I find that a potting mix labeled for cacti or succulents is a great choice and works really well.

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 ensure excellent drainage. This involves using a well-draining potting mix and selecting a container with drainage holes.

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 I find works particularly 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 susceptible to cold and will suffer if temperatures dip below 50ºF for an extended period of time.

Since this plant doesn’t like the cold, 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 at Home

A Kalanchoe Pinnata plant with green leaves with tiny ridges around the edges

Watering

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, in my experience. 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. Watering in this manner mimics the intense storms the plant experiences in its natural environment.

Fertilizing

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

I find that 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. 

Propagating

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

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 Problems & How to Treat Them

A Kalanchoe Pinnata plant growing outdoors on a sunny day

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.

Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) FAQs

Is Kalanchoe Pinnata a Good Indoor Plant?

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

How Big Does a Kalanchoe Pinnata Plant Get?

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

How Fast Do Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) Grow?

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

Is Kalanchoe Pinnata Poisonous to Dogs and Other Pets?

Yes, Kalanchoe pinnata plants are toxic to pets.

Can a Kalanchoe Pinnata (Cathedral Bells) Tolerate Low Light?

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

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.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

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.

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