Panda Plant, botanical name Kalanchoe tomentosa, is native to Madagascar and has been introduced as an ornamental plant elsewhere in the world. It is a succulent plant with thick, fleshy leaves that store water. The leaves are covered in soft, hairy bristles that give them a fuzzy appearance, hence the common name. It is also called Pussy Ears for the same reason.
The stems are covered in the same hair as the leaves, and they’re barely visible underneath. Stems grow upright and force the leaves into a loose rosette pattern. Leaves emerge from the apexes and serve as the main attractions for this plant.
Bell-shaped tubular flowers appear from early spring to summer, but they are sporadic, not appearing one year then appearing the next.
The fuzzy leaves are of particular importance in their natural habitat of very dry areas. Water retention is critical in such conditions, and the natural evolution of the hair on the leaves results from that. Different varieties exhibit different colored leaves, but most have brown, almost burnt hair on the tips of the leaves, making for an extremely attractive appearance.
Panda Plant Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Panda Plant, Pussy Ears|
|Botanical Name||Kalanchoe tomentosa|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9a to 11b|
|Mature Size||Height: up to 1.5 ft.|
|Propagation methods||by seeds, by offsets|
|Sun||Full sun to Part shade|
Panda Plant Care
To add interest to your home or garden, the Panda Plant is a great choice. It is sure to add both visual interest and texture to your space. They are particularly suited to be grown indoors in heated homes as they prefer drier conditions indoors.
Light and Location
Panda Plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight but can tolerate some direct sun. If the leaves start having less hair than usual, that is an indication that they are not getting enough light. Move them to a brighter spot.
They are frost-hardy USDA Hardiness Zones 9a-11b and can be safely grown outdoors in these regions. You can grow them outside in colder regions as well but only during the summer months when conditions are warm and dry. If you live in a cooler climate, it is best to grow them as houseplants where you can control the temperature and humidity.
As with most succulents, Panda Plants are drought tolerant and do not like to be overwatered. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. If you are growing them outdoors in the summer, they may need to be watered more frequently as the heat and sun will cause the soil to dry out more quickly.
Kalanchoe tomentosa prefers warm conditions and will not tolerate frost. Therefore, if you are growing them outdoors, make sure to bring them indoors or provide some other form of protection if there is a chance of frost in your area.
If you are growing them as houseplants, they should be fine as long as the temperature in your home does not dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Panda Plants prefer low humidity levels and will not tolerate humid conditions well. If you experience humid conditions, you may notice the leaves start to shed their hair. This indicates that the plant is stressed, and you should take steps to improve the air circulation or provide a drier environment for the plant.
Kalanchoe tomentosa does not require a lot of fertilizer. A light feeding in the spring is all that is needed. Use a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength. Over-fertilizing can cause burns on the leaves, so it is best to err on the side of caution.
Kalanchoe tomentosa can be propagated by leaf cuttings or stem cuttings. Cuttings can be taken at any time of year, but they have the best chance of taking root if planted in spring.
To propagate by leaf cuttings, take a clean, sharp knife and remove a leaf from the plant. Give the wound time to callus over for a few days, and then plant it in a well-drained cactus mix. Water lightly and keep the soil barely moist. New plants will sprout from the leaf in about four to six weeks. You can also take multiple leaf cuttings and plant them in the same pot to speed up the process.
To propagate by stem cuttings, make the cut just above a node. Just like the leaf-cutting, allow the cutting to callus over for a few days. And then plant it in the well-drained cactus mix, again, just like the leaf cuttings. Water lightly and keep the soil moist but not wet. New roots will sprout in four to six weeks, and new plants will form.
Potting and Repotting
Panda Plants are notoriously slow-growers, so they take a long time to outgrow their original pots. They are best suited for potting in a cactus mix or a well-drained succulent soil. They need to be repotted every two to three years or when the roots start to outgrow the pot. Be careful with the roots when repotting as they are delicate and slow to grow back.
When repotting, pick a pot that is only one size larger than the current pot. If the plant is too big for its pot, it will be more likely to experience root rot.
Panda Plants are mildly toxic to pets and children if ingested. The leaves contain saponins which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues. If you suspect a pet has eaten one, it is best to contact a veterinarian or poison control immediately.
Kalanchoe tomentosa are susceptible to mealy bugs, aphids, and spider mites; the usual suspects. However, since the fuzz on the leaves’ surface heavily resembles the residue leaf behind by mealybugs, they’re the hardest to detect and, therefore, the biggest problem. Keep an eye out for these little critters every chance you get. You can control them with regular applications of insecticidal soap or neem oil.
Panda Plants are generally relatively easy to care for. However, there are still a few things to keep in mind.
One of the most common problems with these succulents is root rot. This is usually caused by overwatering or planting in a pot that does not have adequate drainage. If you suspect root rot, the best course of action is to remove it from the pot and inspect the roots. Black and mushy roots are usually beyond saving. However, you can try to save the plant by trimming away the rotten roots and replanting them in a pot of fresh cactus mix.
Powdery mildew is another common problem with these plants. This fungal disease usually affects plants that are grown in too much shade or in environments that are too humid. It shows itself as a white, powdery substance on the leaves and stems of the plant. If you suspect your plant has powdery mildew, the best course of action is to use a targeted fungicide. Act quickly before it’s too late.
Rust spots can also affect Kalanchoe tomentosa. These brown or orange spots are usually the results of too much water on the leaves. If you notice rust spots on your plant, the best course of action is to reduce watering and ensure good circulation around the plant. You can also try using a fungicide to treat the affected areas.
Proper Panda Plant Care: Tips And Tricks For Success (Video)
Can You Touch A Panda Plant?
The leaves of the Kalanchoe tomentosa are covered in soft, tiny hairs. Therefore, they are perfectly safe to touch. However, avoid ingesting any part of the plant as the sap contains toxins.
Does A Panda Plant Bloom?
Kalanchoe tomentosa do bloom, but they are not known for their flowers. The blooms are bell-shaped and appear in the spring or summer. They rarely appear on indoor houseplants.
How Do You Know When A Panda Plant Needs Water?
Panda Plants are very drought tolerant. They can go weeks without water. However, they will start to wilt when they need water. When the leaves start to droop, it’s time to water.
Can You Grow A Panda Plant Outside?
Panda Plants are not frost-tolerant and should not be grown outdoors in areas that experience freezing temperatures. They can be grown outdoors in the summer months but must be brought indoors before the first frost. In warmer regions, they can be grown outside year-round.
Do Panda Plants Need Drainage?
Panda plants need drainage in order to prevent root rot. Be sure to plant your succulent in a pot with suitable drainage holes. If you suspect your plant has root rot, the best course of action is to remove it from the pot and inspect the roots. If they are brown and mushy, they are probably beyond repair.
What Does A Panda Plant Need To Survive?
Kalanchoe tomentosa is very easy to care for and only needs a few things to survive. They need well-draining soil, plenty of sunlight, and infrequent watering. If you can provide these things, your plant will thrive.