Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bloomin' Kalanchoes: Panda vs. Devil!

Kalanchoe daigremontiana ("The Devil's Backbone", or "Mother of Millions") and Kalanchoe tomentosa ("The Panda Plant") are both Madagascar natives. One is a scary, often invasive plant that can clone itself endlessly until it takes over your garden, and from there, the world; the other is cute, fuzzy, and slow-growing. Considering they are cousins, it's amazing how different they are. Here is the Panda-
Kalanchoe tomentosa, the Panda Plant, MR
And here is the Mother of Millions:
Flowering stalks of Kalanchoe daigremontiana, MR 2014
Quite shocking, isn't it? K. daigremontiana does not bloom regularly, and some don't bloom at all. Mine love to bloom and are happy to do it whenever the mood strikes. This year, it's in winter. The blooms are odorless but very unique, if a little scary looking. But hey, it's a scary plant! Before putting some in your garden, know that you'll never get rid of it  (mine was planted by the former resident of my house, years ago), and it's entirely toxic to small children, pets, and most wildlife. Reptiles live very happily within it, however, as it offers them protection from predators. Scientists are working with the toxins to create cardiac and psychiatric medications, so it may prove useful to us down the line. Sure is a fascinating plant, but growing its sweeter cousin, the Panda, is a safer bet!


  1. Hi Marla,

    I have always loved the Mother-of-Millions. When I was a child I used to eat most of the garden plants. I imagine some of them were mildly toxic. Poisonous plants bring to mind Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter". It's a good thing I was not curious about the taste of K. daigremontiana. I could have ended up like poor Beatrice.

    Beautiful blooms on your M of M. They look yummy to me!


    1. I have very mixed feelings about the MofM. It's weird and Tim-Burtonesque, a plus. But it's invasive, a minus. It offers shelter to reptiles, a plus. It's totally poisonous, a minus. I'm glad you didn't try it in a salad!

  2. Strange that your panda plant has Senecio flowers. It's almost like a miracle (Or more likely an old photo quickly grabbed from archives without noticing that Senecio is blooming in front of Kalanchoe).

    In real life flowers are quite similar.

    Thanks for a great blog,

  3. Well, Jean, don't I feel like a right nitwit! You are right, a Senecio was in front of the Panda Plant, the photo was not old but part of a huge group I hadn't titled or used yet, and I was rushing to get to work. An object lesson in the value of slowing down. I am glad Alert Gardeners like you are out there. These Senecio blooms are actually quite distinctive because they smell like old gym socks!