Growing a Kalanchoe plant can be a tricky business. One day everything looks fine, the next day, the leaves are curling and you’re left confused as to what went wrong.
Not to worry! In this guide for Kalanchoe care, we show you how to properly look after this picky plant. More importantly, we focus on the following concerns: why are my Kalanchoe leaves curling and what measures can I take to prevent it from happening again?
A Kalanchoe is a kind of succulent plant that belongs to the Stonecorps family—or what is scientifically known as the Crassulaceae.
These plants are native to tropical regions, namely Madagascar, Africa, and rainforests everywhere.
That said, a golden rule when taking in a Kalanchoe or any of its relatives is to create a habitat for them that closely resembles their native home.
Since they’re quite sensitive plants, if one thing is off, they’ll immediately start showing signs of wilting. Their main go-to is to curl their leaves.
In other words, if your Kalanchoe leaves are curling, it’s in distress and it wants you to know.
This section will go through several reasons behind why this phenomenon is happening.
Among the top causes of Kalanchoe leaves curling is leaving too much water sitting atop the soil. It’s a mistake that many enthusiastic beginners fall into.
A fun fact to remember is that the word succulent originated from the Latin word for ‘sap’ which is ‘succus’. Certain plants were given this name because of their ability to store water in their leaves for several days.
Since a Kalanchoe identifies as a succulent plant, it shares this feature with other members of its family. Kalanchoe plants have learned to adapt to the arid, hot conditions of their motherland and in turn, don’t need to be watered regularly.
Simply put, excess watering leads to a Kalanchoe’s leaves to curl, brown, and in the long term, even die. A lot of water also makes fungal spots appear.
Despite the fact that Kalanchoe grows in an incredibly hot climate, its leaves don’t react well to constant sun exposure or scorching heat.
While any plant is a fan of light and depends on the sun for survival, in the case of the Kalanchoe plant, less is more. What a Kalanchoe needs is enough indirect sunlight to live, but not too much that its leaves curl.
What this means is that you should put your Kalanchoe plant somewhere with little shade or a corner with diffused sunshine. If you notice the leaves curling or turning red, then it’s time to move the Kalanchoe again.
On the other hand, if your Kalanchoe isn’t getting enough light, it’ll also let you know. The plant will go through a phenomenon known as etiolation, where the leaves will elongate to try and reach areas that have light.
Kalanchoe naturally thrives in dry, sandy soil that’s both well-aerated and lacks many nutrients. Many Kalanchoe owners don’t know this and end up leaving the succulent to rot in improper soil.
While we know you only want the best for your plant, most soils and fertilizers out there aren’t made for a Kalanchoe. All they do is stress the Kalanchoe out as it suffers to get rid of all the unnecessary minerals.
Not only that, but a pot that doesn’t adequately drain the soil will also cause Kalanchoe leaves to curl. Even with suitable soil, a Kalanchoe should be repotted every spring.
In short, you should keep in mind that your Kalanchoe needs three things: a pot with multiple drainage holes, a potting mix designed specifically for succulents, and well-drained soil.
A mistake many make is opting for tap water as an easy and accessible option to water their plants with. What you end up doing, however, is slowly killing your plant as time passes.
The same stands with Kalanchoe plants. While a handful of plants may tolerate tap water a few times, a succulent simply can’t.
That’s due to the fact that tap water contains heavy amounts of salt, minerals that gradually build up on the surface of the soil. After a while, these harmful substances integrate into the soil, altering its pH levels and inhibiting the plant’s roots from absorbing necessary nutrients.
As a result, the roots begin to rot and the Kalanchoe foliage starts to curl. Multiple discoloration spots will appear too.
As mentioned before, Kalanchoe originated from desert-like areas where the temperatures are pretty high and the humidity is low. Simply put, Kalanchoe plants don’t do well in places where those conditions aren’t met.
What happens when your Kalanchoe is subjected to constant low temperatures isn’t good. It may start with its leaves curling, but with time, you’ll notice black spots and gray mold forming as well.*
While Kalanchoe does better in shaded areas with not too much sun exposure, it doesn’t mean that it’ll thrive in wet or cold corners. Ideal temperatures for a Kalanchoe’s growth typically range from 32॰F to 95॰F.
On the hottest of days, remember to mist your Kalanchoe’s leaves with a few sprays of water. You may wipe them with a wet towel too. This step is optional but it helps keep a Kalanchoe’s shiny appearance.
Just as tap water causes irregularities in the pH levels of a plant’s soil, adding fertilizer too often will do the same.
In the case of a Kalanchoe, these plants only need fertilizing once every month. It’s recommended that you give them half the portion that the bag suggests so as not to overwhelm the plant with excess nutrients.
Keep in mind that fertilization of any plant should be done regularly throughout its flowering periods. For the Kalanchoe, such a time means during the late winter and until the spring is over.
When those seasons come, remember to feed your Kalanchoe at least two times per month. Make sure to use a suitable potting mix too.
A Kalanchoe, as we’ve said above, thrives well in high humidity levels. Since it’s a native of drylands, Kalanchoe doesn’t know how to adapt to different conditions.
For instance, winter is the most difficult time for a Kalanchoe. Low humidity plus low temperatures put a lot of stress on its leaves, causing them to curl. Even indoors, you shouldn’t place your Kalanchoe near heat sources either.
In the summer months, the problem prevails because of the air conditioning. During those times, it’s best to keep a Kalanchoe outside, where it’ll enjoy the warm temperature and high humidity.
The golden rule is to keep your Kalanchoe away from drafty vents, heaters, or radiators. In short, avoid subjecting the leaves to any sort of air.
Muck like overwatering a plant poses an issue, not giving it enough water will also stress it out. With a Kalanchoe, the soil should be moist enough but not too dry or too wet.
While it’s true that a Kalanchoe will still grow in dry conditions, its leaves do gradually curl with discoloration spots appearing around the veins. It won’t completely wilt from underwatering, but it’s better to remain safe.
In other words, if the room temperature or the weather outside is cool (below 30॰F), limit the number of watering sessions. Otherwise, keep a close eye on the Kalanchoe’s soil and make sure it never fully dries out.
Additionally, a clear indication that underwatering is your problem will be the Kalanchoe appearing dry—not just curling. If the ends seem reddish-brown, you may want to water your plant more.
If one or more of the conditions mentioned above is met, then your plant has become a suitable breeding ground for pests.
For example, poor circulation, underwatering, and inconsistent cleaning of a Kalanchoe are enough causes for a bug problem. This only results in the leaves curling, drooping, and in extreme cases, falling off.
That said, among the most common pests that attack a Kalanchoe are Mealybugs, Whiteflies, Aphids, and Red Spider Mites. These insects typically gather around the plant’s leaves or base so they can suck out its nutrients and feed on them.
If left untreated, the aforementioned insects will create moldy spots on the leaves and begin blocking out the sunlight. Consequently, the Kalanchoe will die. The best way to get rid of them is by using a safe, homemade pesticide.
At this point, it may seem overwhelming to try and take care of every aspect we went through above. On the bright side, however, it doesn’t require much effort or time to fix the issue of Kalanchoe leaves curling.
By taking you through some of our favorite Kalanchoe care tips, we show you that looking after your beautiful plant has never been so easy.
Watering any Crassulaceae plant takes a lot of practice to perfect. In fact, it’s pretty normal to mess it up the first few times and make your Kalanchoe curl its leaves as a result.
A good rule of thumb to follow is the fingertip one. It states that you should always check the first inch of soil (the same size as a fingertip) to see if your plant needs water or not. If the surface is wet or moist, then postpone watering to later.
Remember also that Kalanchoe’s watering sessions will differ from one season to another. For instance, if the weather is warm outside, the soil dries up faster and will need more watering than usual.
Repotting, as mentioned before, should be down at least once per year—particularly around springtime before the flowering season begins. The process itself is fairly easy and doesn’t require more than the right pot and soil.
When you notice your Kalanchoe leaves curling or the bottom base of its soil has become bone dry, it may be a good time to repot as well. If the current pot you use has a good draining system, then all you need is to replace the old soil with a fresher potting mix.
Just make sure that you use the right soil for your Kalanchoe. Keep in mind that repotting is also a great solution if your plant is getting too much fertilizer. After repotting, you won’t need to add fertilizer for at least six months.
Bringing a Kalanchoe home means that you’re ready to create an environment for it that closely resembles that of its native home. A Kalanchoe should be placed where the temperatures are constantly warm and there’s enough shade to protect its leaves from the sun’s heat.
The ideal spots to keep your Kalanchoe would be at windowsills that are located to the South or East of the sun’s position. Your plant should also be kept where no air drafts or direct sunlight could reach it.
Finally, constantly check the humidity levels of your Kalanchoe’s home. You could purchase a humidifier for better control over how humid the atmosphere around your plant gets.
A tip many plant owners should know is that growing buds should be removed after the flowering season is over. While we may hope that they’ll sprout the following year, it doesn’t often happen.
Instead, the plant spends a year stressing itself out trying to grow these unfortunate racemes by using up its own nutrients and water. So, in order to stop that from happening, make sure that you regularly trim the ends of your Kalanchoe.
Remember that dead, faded foliage only serves as a good habitat for pests and mold diseases to inhabit. By getting rid of them early, you’re saving your plant while also maintaining its beautiful appearance.
If you notice your Kalanchoe leaves curling then you should take it as a sign that your beloved plant is trying to tell you something is wrong.
The most common reasons behind this phenomenon are inconsistent watering sessions and inadequate housing of the plant. Other causes may include using the wrong soil, feeding the Kalanchoe too much fertilizer, or improper potting.
Luckily, with the right preventative measures in place, you won’t have to worry about the Kalanchoe’s leaves curling anymore!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.