Most succulents are grown for their architectural foliage, but there’s a group that sports equally eye-catching flowers. Easy to grow, these drought-loving plants thrive in sunny areas and produce richly colored blooms over many weeks. The flowers of Graptopetalum bellum look like tiny shooting stars while Kalanchoe comes in many different forms.
At first glance, the flat rosette of leaves formed by this succulent are attractive, yet fairly unremarkable, but the plant transforms when short spikes of flowers rise up in summer. The star-shaped blooms are shocking pink, instantly bringing to mind the color of a 1950s Cadillac. Native to Mexico, this plant gives its best performance in a bright, sunny spot indoors. Graptopetalum is drought tolerant, and you should allow the compost to dry out between waterings in the summer, and water sparingly in the winter, giving plants just enough moisture to prevent them from drying out. Overwatering can result in root rot, so check that the plant is not standing in a pot of water. Plants spread easily and over time form a cluster of white-edged rosettes. When the original pot has been filled, either move the plant into a larger container or divide the rosettes up and replant them in small pots.
Graptopetalum bellum has height of 9 inches and spread and 6 inches (15 cm). It needs a sunny windowsill. Temperature needs range from 41 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 10 degrees Celsius). A suitable pot size is 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 cm). Suitable container material terra-cotta and ceramic.
Graptopetalum is a decorative feature on its own, but can look a little underwhelming when not flowering. To maintain interest, group a few plants together or combine it in a bowl with other succulents that require similar growing conditions. Team it up with Crassula, Echeveria or a small Aloe. You can combine it with trailing Graptopetalum paraguayense, alongside the reddish rosettes of Graptopetalum rusbyi. Add a decorative mulch to the surface of the compost. Graptopetalum bellum flowers more profusely when grown in bright, sunny conditions. Feed plants monthly with a half-diluted cactus fertilizer to keep it thriving.
The powdery-gray scalloped leaves of Kalanchoe pumila provide an excellent foil for the pale pink flowers that appear on slender stems during the spring and summer. Its spreading habit makes this succulent an ideal candidate for a hanging basket or wall-mounted container, and it will be happy outside on a warm, sunny sheltered patio or deck in the summer. Kalanchoe is a large family of succulents, and includes a range of plant sizes and habits. Others to try include forms of K. manginii, which have large, bell-shaped, suspended blooms held on long stems and varieties of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana or Flaming Katy, the most popular and widely available species, with green leaves and upward-facing blooms.
Kalanchoe pumila has a height and spread of 18 inches (45 cm). It needs a exposure of bright, sunny spot. Temperature needs are at a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). The suitable pot size is 16 inches (15 cm). Suitable container materials are terra-cotta, plastic and ceramic.
Caring for Kalanchoe
Keep plants on the dry side and do not water the leaves. Allow the compost to dry out between waterings and water sparingly in the winter. Kalanchoe plants will flower well on a sunny windowsill, but they need encouragement to bloom again after their initial burst. When the flowers start to fade, cut off the stalks at the base and move the plant to a shady windowsill for four weeks. Don’t water during this time, then bring the plant back to a sunny sill and water as usual. Feed plants every two weeks in the spring and summer with a liquid fertilizer. Delicate pink flowers and pale gray leaves suit a pastel-colored glazed container that won’t overpower them.