Panda Plant Guide - How to Care For Kalanchoe Tomentosa

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by Max - last update on August 4, 2019, 5:56 am
Kalanchoe Tomentosa Panda plant in pot

Panda plants are quite a popular addition to many indoor succulent gardens because of their fun, exotic look. In addition, they don’t require much care, so they are an ideal fit for people who don’t have a lot of experience with plants or just don’t want to invest a lot of time into maintaining their houseplant collection.

Children often like panda plants thanks to the unusual red spots on the leaves, so you may want to get a panda plant for your little one’s bedroom. However, it is a bad idea to place a panda plant in a toddler’s bedroom because their urge to explore everything may lead them to taste the plant’s leaves, which are mildly toxic. For the same reason, you may want to make sure that your panda plants are out of reach for pets who may also want to taste the unusual, velvety leaves (FDA.gov).

In the sections below you will find more information about the panda plant, including how to care for it, where to place it in your home, and what to do if you run into one of the common problems with this plant.

Quick Facts

OriginMadagascar
Scientific NameKalanchoe tomentosa
FamilyKalanchoe
TypeSucculent
Common NamesPanda plant, pussy ears, cat ears, cocoon plant, chocolate soldier
Ideal Temperature60° F (15° C) - 75° F (23° C)
ToxicityPoisonous to dogs and cats
LightA mixture of bright indirect light, direct light, and shade
WateringAllow to dry out between watering, make sure there’s no water left in the bottom tray
HumidityNormal room air humidity
PestsMealybugs, scale, red spider mites

Caring For Your Panda Plant

Watering

If you’re forgetful or just don’t have a lot of time to care for your plants, you probably should only get succulents for your home. Most succulents will thrive if you only water them occasionally, and panda plant is no exception to that rule. The leaves of this plant are very well-suited to storing water so that it can survive for long periods of time in dry environments, so it should be fine even if you forget to water it for a week or two.

That being said, you shouldn’t completely neglect your panda plant and leave the soil in its pot dry for months. When you do water it, you can either water it from above until the surface of the soil is no longer absorbing the water or pour some water into the bottom tray. If you choose the latter option, make sure to remove all excess water after the soil has had 10 - 15 minutes to absorb it. If you water your panda plant from above, you should stop once you see that the water is gathering in the bottom tray.

Be careful not to let any water come into contact with the plant’s leaves because even the smallest drops could make the leaves rot. If they do get wet by accident, grab a tissue and gently remove as much water as you can from the affected leaf.

If you live in a climate where indoor temperatures will be significantly lower during fall and winter, don’t water your panda plant as often as you do during the warm seasons (University of Conneticut.edu).

Feeding

Similarly to watering, fertilizing panda plants should be more frequent during the spring and summer months. In fact, it may be a good idea not to fertilize your panda plant in winter at all.

Use a diluted fertilizer for succulent plants and apply it to your panda plant once every four weeks. You may need to try out multiple fertilizer brands before you find one that works best for your panda plant specimen.

Light

Fluffy blue succulent kalanchoe tomentosa enjoys the light

Panda plants enjoy bright light, but you may want to add some light shade into the mix to make sure that the plant’s leaves don’t get damaged by excessive sunlight. A sunny windowsill that is in the shade for some hours during morning or afternoon should be an ideal spot for your panda plant.

If you want to place your panda plant outside during summer, you need to do that gradually, avoiding complete exposure to sunlight from day one. Otherwise, the plant’s leaves may get scorched by the light. If you live in a warm climate with lots of sunshine, you may want to place your panda plant in a shady environment during the afternoon hours to avoid damage to its leaves.

Temperature

Like most other succulents, panda plant is not very demanding when it comes to temperature conditions. It prefers 60° F (15° C) - 75° F (23° C) temperature range, but will also tolerate slightly higher or lower temperatures.

If you take your panda plant outside for the warm months, you’ll need to make sure it’s back inside by the first signs of cold, frosty nights. Otherwise, it will get damaged by cold temperatures and might even die. Similarly, don’t expose the plant to excessive heat during summer months and water it more frequently to help it get through the hot period.

Humidity

Panda plants prefer normal humidity that is typical for room air in moderate climates. If your panda plant lives in an environment that’s drier than that, it may need some additional watering. You may have an intuitive urge to spray some water on its leaves to make them less dry, but you would risk damaging the leaves and making them rot. Thus, it’s better to find a more humid environment for your panda plant if you can see that its current one is too dry.

If you have to place the plant in a humid environment, you’ll need to water it less frequently and check the leaves for signs of rotting on a regular basis. If the air around it is too humid, the leaves may start to deteriorate, and you’ll have to move the plant to a drier place.

Repotting

Kalanchoe tomentosa in a soil pot

Since the panda plant is a succulent, it needs to grow in soil that provides good drainage. To achieve that, you can either use a potting mixture for succulents or make your own mix with regular soil, sand, and loam. To make sure that you create optimal drainage for your plant, place some clay pot pieces at the bottom of the pot before you put soil into it.

You can also try planting your panda plant outside, but it will only survive in very mild climates where it won’t be exposed to cold temperatures. In addition, it will have to be protected from rain, which will otherwise inevitably cause panda plant’s leaves to rot. Thus, it may be a better idea to plant your panda plant in a pot and just bring it outside in summer if you feel like it.

Repotting your panda plant is not going to be a very frequent activity, as it grows quite slowly. Our estimate is that you’ll only have to repot it every two years while it grows. Once it has reached the height of around 18 inches (45 centimeters), it will most likely stop growing, and you will be able to repot it even less frequently. Panda plants do not require large pots even when fully grown, so you won’t need a pot that’s larger than 5 inches (13 centimeters) in diameter.

Flowers

Panda plants hardly ever blossom indoors, so you shouldn’t expect any flowers on your specimen unless you plant it outside. If you’re very lucky, your potted panda plant may produce small flowers situated at the tips of its branches. Still, you shouldn’t really count on that and just enjoy the velvety look of your panda plant’s foliage.

Propagation

Take several leaves from panda plants to propagate
Take several leaves from panda plants to propagate

If you like the way your panda plant looks and would like to have more of them standing around the house, you don’t necessarily have to buy more plants. You can try to propagate your specimen instead, which is a relatively easy and cost-effective way to obtain many new panda plants.

Panda plant propagation should be done in spring or summer when the climate conditions are optimal for the plant to develop and grow. You’ll need to take several leaves from your panda plant (don’t take too many because it might weaken your plant, but if you take just one, it might not develop roots, and you’ll have to repeat the whole procedure) and place them in a perlite mixture. Alternatively, use sandy potting soil to accommodate your future plant.

Letting the leaves dry for 5-7 days before you place them in soil and start watering them may promote faster growth, but be sure not to let them dry for too long. After you’ve planted the leaves in their first pots, place them in a spot which has a lot of indirect sunlight. Water the leaves once the soil surface becomes completely dry.

After 3-5 weeks, the leaf will have developed some roots, and new leaves will grow around it. At that point, you have a new panda plant which you’ll have to plant in a pot with succulent soil and care for it just like you do for the original specimen.

Varieties

Panda plant has a number of varieties all of which have similar traits but differ in smaller characteristics, such as the exact shape and coloring of the leaves.

“Chocolate soldier” is probably the most widespread variety of panda plant. It has a particularly robust stem and soft, “furry” foliage. When planted outside, chocolate soldiers can grow to be up to 32 inches (80 centimeters) tall, but when planted in pots and kept inside, they only get to be half of that size.

Common Problems

Common Problem of Panda Plant

Dried Leaves at the Bottom of Your Panda Plant

It’s important to understand that the leaves of your succulent plants are going to die from to time, and that doesn’t indicate any kind of mistake or negligence from you. Thus, if you see that one or two leaves on your panda plant are starting to get brown and dry at the stem, it’s probably time for them to be replaced with young, fresh leaves.

Once the leaves are completely dry and dead, you can remove them so that the plant can concentrate its resources on growing new ones. You won’t need to use any tools; just steady the plant with one hand and gently pull the leaf away with the other one.

Many Dried Leaves All Around Your Panda Plant

If multiple leaves start to look dried out and dying at the same time, it’s a sure sign that your plant isn’t getting enough water. Try watering it more frequently and make sure that it is placed in a spot with optimal humidity. Sometimes panda plants start to get brown, dry leaves if the air around them is not humid enough. If that’s happening to your specimen, watering it will not help. Do not try to apply water directly to the leaves as that will most likely make them rot, but move the pot to a place that’s less dry and let the plant recover for some weeks.

If the drying out has just begun, you will surely be able to save your panda plant with a little more water, and it will look good as new after 2-3 watering cycles. However, if almost all leaves on your panda plant are looking creased, wrinkled, and shriveled up, your panda plant is probably too dehydrated to recover (but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!).

Yellow, Mushy Leaves

If your panda plant is losing its beautiful green natural coloring and turning yellow instead, it is likely suffering from overwatering. In this case, try watering the plant less frequently and pour less water into the pot during each watering. Make sure to wait until the soil has become completely dry before you water your panda plant, and if you’re not sure if it’s dry enough, better let it dry out for another day or two. Succulents are remarkably good at retaining water in their leaves, so being in dry soil is not as bad for your panda plant as you may think. Also, consider repotting the plant to place it into better soil and provide more drainage (Garden.org).

Black Spots on the Stem and Leaves

If it’s already come to this, you’ve been overwatering your panda plant for weeks. The general solution to this problem is the same as described in the paragraph above, but you’ll probably have to cut off the affected leaves and stem parts to save the whole plants. Once there are no black spots left, let the rest of the plant dry out for a while until you water it again.

Sometimes overwatered panda plants can’t be recovered, but you still can cut off the healthy leaves, let them dry for 3-5 days, and propagate them in fresh soil with good drainage. That way, you’ll at least have a new plant even if you couldn’t save the original one.

Long Leaves Situated Far Apart from One Another on the Stem

If the leaves on your panda plant are becoming elongated and showing more and more stem between them, the plant is probably not getting enough sunlight. This is a sign that you should move the pot to a brighter spot that is exposed to both direct and indirect light. Of course, the leaves that are already there aren’t going to move down the stem or look more round, but the new leaves will get enough sunlight and grow close to one another, eventually creating the desired look.

If you’re absolutely determined to keep your panda plant short and covered in dense foliage, you may use special plant scissors to remove the long leaves and trim the stem to make way for new, regularly shaped leaves.

White Substance on the Leaves and Stem

Succulents often fall prey to mealybugs, and if you suddenly find your panda plant covered in a web-like white substance, it is probably being affected by the tiny parasites. Mealybugs are sometimes difficult to get rid of or even notice because they like to live in the nooks and crannies of your plant. With panda plants, mealybugs are often found in spots where leaves meet the stem. Still, you should do your best to remove them from your panda plant because they will kill it if given enough time to grow and multiply. What’s more, they will quickly spread to other plants in your garden, endangering your whole plant family.

One of the best ways to get rid of the mealybugs on your panda plant is to treat it with rubbing alcohol. You can use a cotton ball to apply the alcohol to the leaves or simply spray the affected spots with it if they are tough to get to. Of course, you can also use pesticides to kill off the mealybugs, but they might end up damaging your panda plant as well.


Conclusion

We hope that this article will help you figure out how to care for your panda plant. If you still have any questions left, be sure to leave a comment, and we’ll do our best to help you!

Panda Plant Guide - How to Care For Kalanchoe Tomentosa

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