Kalanchoe thyrsiflora: Paddle plant

Family: Crassulaceae
Common name: Paddle plant, Flapjacks, Flapjack paddle plant, Red pancake, Dog tongue, Plakkie, White lady, Geelplakkie, Meelplakkie, Desert cabbage, Bird’s brandy, Ice sculpture, White lady kalanchoe, Yellow flapjacks

Paddle plants are one of the most beautiful succulents you can have in your garden or indoors near a sunny window. Characterized by their large paddle-like or clam-like leaves that form large rosettes, these lovely plants can add a lot of character to your garden, or even your work station.

They only grow to a height of 15 cms though older plants can have a distinct long, thick stem that grows horizontal to the ground. In bright sunlight, the edges of leaves are tinged with red.

Outer and inner leaves have a white powdery coating on them, helping us distinguish between a very close relative Kalanchoe luciae. K luciae plants are darker red, and they do not have a powdery coating on the leaves.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora and Kalachoe luciae can also be distinguished by their flowers. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora produces a long stalk having bunches of green and yellow, urn-like flowers that are fragrant, but Kalanchoe luciae produces a long stalk having bunches of whitish-yellow flowers that are not as fragrant.

Both these plants only flower after 3-4 years, with the right amount of sunlight. And both plants are monocarpic, where the parent plant dies after producing flowers.

Paddle plants produce many offsets around it, and can grow into large clusters filling your garden provided they have well-drained, porous soil, good sunlight and water. They are a native of Africa, but are seen in nurseries and gardens all over the world now.

Being a succulent, these plants need very little water and they mostly suffer from overwatering than underwatering. Water your Paddle plants only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry, and even then, do not soak the soil completely.

Cut back on watering and fertilization during rainy season and winter. During rainy season make sure that you move all your succulents to a shaded place, and do not let them soak in the rain. Thought succulents are low maintenance, the conditions have to be ideal for them to grow and flourish.

Progagation is through seeds or leaf cuttings, which should be allowed to dry out for a few days before they are planted. Most plants produce small offsets called ‘pups’ around them which can be removed carefully and replanted.