Mother of Thousands
Top Tips & Info
- Care Difficulty - Easy
- Mother of Thousands are best suited in bright locations with a splash of morning or evening sun. We'd recommend exposing yours to around two or three hours of sunlight per day for solid, reliable growth. Recently purchased specimens will need to build up their tolerance to the sun over the course of the next six weeks for avoiding sun-scorch.
- Infrequently irrigate the soil with the mentality of 'drenches between droughts' - over-watering and too low light are the two most common problems amongst owners.
- Supplement every few months with a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled fertiliser.
- Repot every three to four years during the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix. It's best to keep your specimen pot-bound unless there are issues of root rot.
- Keep an eye out for Mealybugs & Scale that'll hide in the plant's cubbyholes.
- Scroll down to 'Origins' to learn more about the difference between the 'Mother of Thousands' & 'Mother of Millions'.
- For information on propagating the small 'pups' that develop along the leaf-edges, scroll down to 'Propagation'.
Location & Light
It's important to allow the specimen to be exposed to a portion of morning or evening sunlight to replicate their natural habitat, as those kept in too shady locations will quickly show signs of stunted growth, soil mould and root rot.
If you have recently bought yours, it can be trained to tolerate harsher levels of sunlight than most houseplants, by gently increasing the number of hours in the sun over the oncoming month. This process is best done from autumn to late winter, whilst the rays are at their weakest. Each week, increase the amount of light by an hour, starting with just an hour of morning sunlight to gain its momentum. The plant will slowly decease the production of chlorophyll, which in turn will reduce the risk of bleaching and sun-scorch. Remember to keep the specimen well hydrated during this period, and always abort the experiment if it shows signs of sun-scorch. The maximum amount of sunlight for this plant is around four hours a day.
Not only will continuous soil moisture ruin root systems, but it'll also increase the risk of 'heart rot' which essentially will destroy the plant from its centre. Allow all of the soil to thoroughly dry out in between waters in the growing period, reducing this further in the autumn and winter. Under-watering symptoms include a shrivelled stem, yellowing leaves, little to no growth and dry, crispy patches forming on the leaf edges. These issues are usually caused by too much light/heat or forgetfulness. Remember, the brighter the location, the more watering you'll need to do. Over-watering symptoms include a weakened or rotten stem, no new growth, yellowing lower leaves and eventual plant death. The differences between under and over-watering can be very similar, with a rotten root ball or basal collapse being the obvious difference.
This is not a necessity; however, a quick hose down from time to time will hydrate the leaves and wash away dust or potential pests.
Supplement once every few months using either a 'Cactus & Succulent' feed or a 'Houseplant' labelled Fertiliser. As Mother of Thousands naturally grow in nutrient-leached soils, forgetfulness of regular fertilisations won't be a serious detriment to their health. Never directly apply a 'ready-to-use' (RTU) without a pre-water first as this may lead to the burning or roots.
Common Issues with Mother of Thousands
Root rot is a common issue with specimens sat in too moist or waterlogged soil for long periods. Symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and a rotten brown caudex. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect health below the soil line. If the roots sport a yellow tinge, you're good to go, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately.
Curled leaves and dried brown edges are the result of too little water and over-exposure to the sun. Although they can naturally do well in sun-filled locations, those who haven't acclimatised to the harsh rays will show sun-scorch and environmental shock signs. Prolonged exposure will significantly speed the process of dehydration, so consider transplantation into a bigger pot in the spring to wrap the roots around moister soil.
Directly pinpointing yellow leaves is rather hard due to the many different issues that could be at fault. Problems include watering-related abuse, too much or too little light, and fertilisation issues.
Mould or mushrooms developing on the soil means two things - too little light and over-watering. Despite the harmlessness, it'll prove unsightly to most gardeners and is therefore removed once known. To remove, replace the top two inches of the soil for a fresh batch of Cactus compost. Either increase the amount of light received (no direct sunlight for the first few weeks to prevent environmental shock) or decrease the frequency of waters slightly. If the mould is accompanied by yellowing lower leaves, you may also have a case of root rot.
This species was initially described in the early 20th century by German botanist, Alwin Berger, during a voyage to south-east Africa. He placed the newly-discovered species in Bryophyllum, due to similar characteristics of other specimens in the genus. This name would stand only for a few years, before Raymond-Hamet and Henri Perrier de la Bâthie reclassified it in Kalanchoe - still keeping the specific epithet of 'diagremontiana'.
Bryophyllum - Comes from Ancient Greek, translating to 'moss-covered' 'leaves' that possibly refers to the appearance of individual species. (Bryo & Phýllon).
Kalanchoe - Michel Adanson named the genus in 1763, honouring Czechian botanist, Georg Joseph Kamel (Camellus).
Diagremontiana - Refers to the bufadienolide, 'diagremontanin', which is a toxin steroid found in the plant's body.
The Difference between Mother of Thousands & Mother of Millions.
From a care requirement perspective, the difference between the two is minimal. Both species prefer to be kept on the drier side to life with partial exposure to the direct sun. The true difference stems from the shape of the leaves and a slight variance of their toxins. The 'Mother of Thousands' has wider, pinnate growth with the leaves developing in pairs, whereas the latter has thinner, pointed leaves and a darker tone. An interspecific hybrid was created between the two species, named Kalanchoe × houghtonii, which has similar characteristics to the Mother of Millions (Right, image below). This species can be cared for using the information mentioned above.
12° - 32℃ (54° - 90℉)
H1a (Hardiness Zone 12) - Can be grown outdoors during the spring and summer in a sheltered location whilst nighttime temperatures are above 12℃ (54℉), but is fine to remain indoors, too. If you decide to bring this plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than three hours of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back indoors.
The overall size can be up to 1.5m (indoors) in height and 0.5 m in width, with the individual leaf reaching around 4cm. The ultimate height will take around fifteen years to achieve when repotted every few years.
Pruning & Maintenance
Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.
Via Seed or Pups, Stem Cuttings.
Pups (Very Easy) - Pups that are located on mature leaves have the most potential due to its size and maturity. Gently place your fingers between the mother's leaf and the pups' base, pulling it sideways until you feel a subtle snap. Set the pups ON TOP OF a bed of moist 'Cactus & Succulent' compost for root growth. Not only will this callus the wound (to prevent disease), but it'll also speed up the propagation process considerably. Be sure to point them upwards, along with the absence of soil covering their foliage. The pups will naturally root into the soil within the following weeks, followed by rapid foliar growth soon after. Provide a bright setting with temperatures around 18°C (64°F) with the majority of the soil drying out in between waters. New leaves should emerge within a month or two, thus signalling the start of its independent life!
Stem Cuttings (Moderate) - This method is an easy way to duplicate the original plant. Stems that are at least 8cm (3 inches) in height and part of the young growth of an established plant are most likely to root. To avoid making a mess of the serrations, use a clean pair of scissors and cut 8cm down from the stem's end, dipping the wound in water and then into rooting hormone to speed the propagation. Rooting can take in the range of between two to eight weeks, depending on environmental factors and the cutting's quality. We recommend using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix, with a pot that has adequate drainage to avert the risk of blackleg. Provide a bright, warm setting of around 20℃ (66℉) with relatively moist soil, but be sure to allow the top half to dry out in between waters. You'll know if propagation is successful as the leaves will stay green and firm, along with small roots developing from the callous (dried wound). New foliar growth will emerge from the nodes after around twelve weeks, but it may take longer if the conditions aren't optimal. After a month of solid new growth, transplant into a slightly bigger pot and treat it like a mature specimen with the care tips provided above.
Mother of Thousands will rarely flower in a domestic setting due to the unfavourable growing conditions. For the sake of education, their flowers will appear only on mature specimens during the spring or summer months, with its flowers vaguely resembling orange trumpets.
Repot every three to four years in the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Mother of Thousands are far better potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock) - so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary.
Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce extra amounts of perlite and grit into the lower portion of the new soil to downplay over-watering risks.
Pests & Diseases
Keep an eye out for mealybugs, scale, whitefly & root mealybugs. Common diseases associated with Mother of Thousands are root rot, red leaf-spot, heart rot, botrytis & southern blight.
This plant is classified as poisonous; if parts of the plants are eaten, vomiting, nausea, and appetite loss could occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.