If you have a Kalanchoe that you intend to keep, then you have quite some work ahead of you. Kalanchoes may be beautiful but they’re not the easiest plants to take care of.
One of the most common sights with Kalanchoes is a leggy Kalanchoe. A leggy plant is one whose stems have excessively overgrown beyond their natural size.
If you’re here, you’re probably wondering: why is my Kalanchoe Leggy?
A leggy Kalanchoe is most commonly caused by a lack of sunlight. Lack of sunlight prevents the Kalanchoe from converting nutrients into energy, so the plant will extend its stems in hopes of gathering more light.
Lack of sunlight is often the most common reason for a leggy Kalanchoe, but it’s not the only one. Some extra factors may indirectly contribute to a leggy plant. You should be aware of those as well to know how to avoid them.
Why Is My Kalanchoe Leggy?
Here’s why your Kalanchoe plant could be leggy.
1 – Lack of Sunlight
Lack of sunlight is the main reason why Kalanchoes could be leggy. Sunlight is one of the main requirements for the plant to survive.
Here’s how it works, the plant needs three things so it can do the photosynthesis process. This process is how the plant makes the food it needs to survive.
Photosynthesis requires three things; nutrients from the soil, carbon dioxide from the air, and sunlight.
If one of those three requirements is insufficient, different plants will exhibit different behaviors. In our case, the Kalanchoe may respond by extending its stems in an attempt to look for more light.
Once the Kalanchoe manages to get enough sunlight, the stem elongation would stop and the plant would continue to grow normally.
Keep in mind that while lack of sunlight is the most common cause for a leggy Kalanchoe, it’s not the only one.
2 – Improper Pruning
Pruning a plant is cutting off any dying parts of the plant to encourage the growth of new ones. Kalanchoe may not be a large plant but it certainly has many leaves, flowers, and stems. A lot of food is required to sustain so many extensions.
The various plant parts and the absence of pruning could lead to a leggy Kalanchoe for one of two reasons:
Plants aren’t intelligent creatures. When some of the parts are dying, the plant won’t recognize the importance of letting go of these parts to preserve the most.
As a result, the Kalanchoe will continue to nourish dying leaves, stems, and flowers until they can no longer go on. That wastes a lot of nourishment that could have been otherwise used to support the healthy parts.
Remember the photosynthesis formula? One of the three requirements, the nutrients, is now compromised. However, the Kalanchoe can’t pinpoint why it’s not able to make its food.
It can’t tell whether the problem is a lack of nutrients or a lack of sunlight. Because of that, even if the Kalanchoe is getting enough sunlight, it may extend its stems to look for more sunlight.
We mentioned earlier that the Kalanchoe is a plant of many extensions. The flowers, in particular, tend to grow in large numbers.
The photosynthesis process can only be done by the green parts of the plant. In the case of a Kalanchoe, most of the green leaves could be covered with an abundant number of flowers.
This is usually not a problem but if the plant is already placed in an area with little sunlight, it could mean the difference between having enough sunlight or needing more.
If the flowers cover too much of the already light-deprived green leaves, the Kalanchoe may fight back by becoming leggy.
3 – Too Little Water
Kalanchoes belong to the family of succulents. Plants of this family are able to retain water inside their leaves for extended periods.
To correctly water a Kalanchoe, you should wait until the top two inches of the soil are dry. Dip half of your index finger in the soil and if it comes out dry, it’s time to water the Kalanchoe.
To give you an estimate, you should water your Kalanchoe once every 2–3 weeks. The problem is that some people forget to water their Kalanchoes when the interval is that long.
When the Kalanchoe doesn’t get enough water, it will have a hard time absorbing the nutrients from the soil. This breaks the photosynthesis formula and forces the Kalanchoe to react.
A thirsty Kalanchoe will either form aerial roots to increase water absorption or extend the stems in hopes of getting more sunlight. Again, the plant won’t be able to pinpoint the origin of the problem so it could try anything.
4 – Too Much Water
Too much water will deprive the roots of oxygen. If this lasts too long, the roots will drown, rot, or both.
When roots are drowned or rotten, they won’t be able to absorb the required nutrients from the soil. The lack of nutrients will prevent the plant from making its food.
As a response, the Kalanchoe will elongate the stems and form aerial roots in an attempt to locate another source of nutrients.
To avoid the pitfall of excessive water, you should test the soil correctly before you water it. If you place your finger in the soil and it comes out moist, then it’s still too early to water your Kalanchoe.
As mentioned earlier, Kalanchoes should be watered every 2–3 weeks. Keep in mind that this period may slightly increase or decrease depending on the temperature.
5 – Tight Containers or Little Soil
Most plant keepers don’t intentionally place their Kalanchoes in small pots. What happens is that the Kalanchoe usually grows faster than most people expect.
Once the plant becomes too big for its pot, it may become leggy. This happens because the soil that was originally enough for the small plant is now too small to nourish a bigger plant.
A tight space or little soil could also lead to a problem known as root binding. If you notice that your Kalanchoe is getting leggy, the pot size should be one of the things you consider changing.
What to Do With Leggy Kalanchoe Plant?
Now that we understand why a Kalanchoe could be leggy, it’s time to know how to handle the situation.
1 – Place the Kalanchoe Near the Sunlight
Since the most common reason for a leggy Kalanchoe is lack of sunlight, placing your Kalanchoe in a more bright area should be your first course of action.
Kalanchoes love sunlight and they grow best when they are given the full sun treatment. These plants love the bright light. However, make sure that the sunlight is indirect.
If you place your Kalanchoe directly under the sunlight, the delicate leaves and flowers won’t withstand the heat.
2 – Provide an Artificial Light Source
If you can’t provide natural sun treatment to your plant for whatever reason, you should be using an artificial light source.
Artificial light will never be as good as natural sunlight but it’s still better than nothing. The Kalanchoe will still undergo photosynthesis and make a fair amount of food.
If you are already using artificial light but still noticing a leggy Kalanchoe, you should either increase the intensity of the light or bring it closer to your Kalanchoe.
3 – Prune the Elongated Parts
Elongated parts of the Kalanchoe should be cut off to prevent malnourishment. When you prune the decaying parts of your plant, you gain two things.
One, you allow the plant to direct all the nourishment to where it matters the most. This will stop the valuable minerals from going to unimportant parts of the Kalanchoe.
Two, you remove the excessive shade formed by unnecessary parts of the plant. When you trim the dying parts, you allow more light to reach the green areas of the plant and improve photosynthesis.
4 – Use the Right Amount of Water
This should be easy to conclude by now. Using too much or too little water will eventually lead to reduced nutrients reaching your Kalanchoe.
Make sure to test your soil before watering the plant to avoid such issues.
By now, the “why is my kalanchoe leggy” question should be clearly answered in your mind.
To keep things short, the most probable cause is reduced sunlight. The easiest way to deal with this is to either place your Kalanchoe closer to the sunlight or use an artificial bright light.
There are some extra reasons which include insufficient pruning and water but they often lead to aerial roots rather than leggy plants.
Fortunately, all of those causes are fairly simple to deal with. You should find no problem in helping your leggy Kalanchoe.
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.