Kalanchoe: A Floral Odyssey of Myths, Symbolism, and Culture

If you’re looking for a carefree houseplant that’s easy to grow and looks great year-round, don’t pass up the kalanchoe. The most commonly grown species, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, is a tropical succulent with bright pink, red, yellow, and coral-hued blossoms. In addition to their ornamental value, Kalanchoe is rich in meaning and symbolism and is culturally significant worldwide. 

Kalanchoe Meaning, Symbolism, Myths, Folklore, and Cultural Significance

The Meaning and Symbolism of Kalanchoe Flowers

In the Victorian era, freely speaking one’s thoughts and feelings was seen as a major social faux pas. Instead, members of the upper class used gifts of flowers to send coded messages.

Known as floriography, the practice began in the 17th century Ottoman Empire, but it really took off in 1800s Europe. In the language of flowers, each blossom had a specific meaning. The type, color, and even number of flowers one gave sent a symbolic message to the recipient.

Kalanchoe was associated with persistence, endurance, affection, and eternal love. This refers to the plants’ long bloom time, which can be up to months.

If you wanted to tell someone that your affection was long-lasting, a gift of Kalanchoe flowers allowed you to get your message across without speaking.

Kalanchoe Flower Colors and Their Meaning

Kalanchoe Flower Colors and Their Meaning & Symbolism

In the language of flowers, color is imbued with significance. Depending on the type, kalanchoe flowers bloom in shades of pink, red, yellow, and coral.

Floriography often associates pink with affection and gratitude, while red flowers symbolize love and romance. Yellow blooms convey cheer and good luck, while coral or orange hues often signify happiness, enthusiasm, and optimism.

Kalanchoe Flowers in Chinese Culture

In China, Kalanchoe is known as wan zi qian thong or “mother of millions.” The reference to “millions” refers to the multitudes of tiny blossoms the plants produce for months.

Thanks to the intense hues of its blooms, kalanchoe is associated with wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. It’s considered a lucky plant and a good choice for Chinese New Year or feng shui practices.

History and Culture of Kalanchoe Flowers

Kalanchoe plants have long been gardeners’ favorite thanks to their easy nature and long-lasting flowering habits. The genus was first named in the 1760s by a French botanist, Michel Adanson.

The genus Kalanchoe comes from the Chinese term kalan chau, which roughly translates to “something that falls and grows.” This refers to the plant’s tendency to drop bits that then grow and spread.

There are more than 100 species within the Kalanchoe genus. Florists and home gardeners commonly grow the species K. blossfeldiana, which is prized for its long-lasting, brightly colored clusters of flowers.

A kalanchoe was one of the first plants sent to space. In the late 1970s, astronauts from the then-U.S.S.R. felt lonely and depressed while living on the space station. A resupply mission brought plants into orbit, including a kalanchoe. The astronauts nicknamed it “life tree” and said that it cheered them up to look at it.

The bright, long-lasting blooms have also made the Kalanchoe a favorite gift for Valentine’s Day. When given as a live plant, the flowers can bloom for months.

Kalanchoe Meaning and Symbolism – Wrapping Up

The lovely kalanchoe, rich in meaning and symbolism, offers long-lasting, colorful blossoms that brighten any room. They’re also a fabulous floral gift for someone you care about, as they send a message of enduring affection and faithfulness in the language of flowers. Give a kalanchoe for Valentine’s Day, as a good luck gift, or just to let someone know you’re thinking of them with affection and care.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the best types of red, pink, and purple houseplants.

If you’re looking for your next Kalanchoe plant to add to your collection, see our guide to the best live plant delivery services.

Contributing Editor | linsay@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Linsay is an American copywriter based in the Pacific Northwest with a background in academic writing and research. Linsay holds Master's degree in both Anthropology and Library and Information Sciences and has written for numerous national and international publications including USA Today, SFGATE, Hunker, and The Bump across an array of topics in the gardening, green living, and travel sectors. When she's not writing, you'll usually find Linsay reading, kayaking, sailing, snowboarding, or working in her garden.

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