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Kalanchoe tomentosa: varieties, care & propagation

The Kalanchoe tomentosa succulent, perhaps more commonly known as the panda plant, is a real eye-catcher. Find everything you need to know about how to plant and care for these low maintenance beauties here.

Small potted Kalanchoe tomentosa
Kalanchoe tomentosa are perfect for gardening beginners [Photo: Satakorn/ Shutterstock.com]

The panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) is perfect for plant beginners as it requires very little maintenance. Even if you forget to water it, the Kalanchoe tomentosa can actually survive on the water stored in its leaves. Here you will find some of the most beautiful varieties and a guide to choosing the perfect location for your plant.

Kalanchoe tomentosa: origin and characteristics 

Kalanchoe tomentosa succulents belong to the Crassulaceae family. The term “tomentosus” comes from Latin meaning “felt-like” and the plant is often referred to as panda plant, cat ears, pussy ears or even donkey ears on account of its velvety soft, almost furry leaves. The water-storing leaves are fleshy, white-felted and pointed-oval in shape, usually arranged in a rosette. They are grey green in colour with red or brown, dotted edges.

Panda plants are native to Madagascar, where they usually grow up to a metre tall on rocky ground. As a houseplant, you can expect your panda succulent to stop growing closer to 50cm. Kalanchoe tomentosa rarely flowers when grown indoors; however, in its native environment, the plant produces delightful bell-shaped flowers in green, purple or yellow that bloom between March and June.

Note: All members of the Kalanchoe genus are poisonous!

Kalanchoe tomentosa varieties

  • Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate soldier’: This classic panda plant has rather narrow, pale coloured leaves and chocolate brown leaf edges. The paleness of the leaves and colouring of the leaf edges varies depending on the light conditions where the plant is located.
Chocolate soldier panda plant with brown leaf borders
Kalanchoe tomentosa with spotted, chocolate brown leaf edges [Photo: Tamonwan_Newnew/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Nigra’: The brown leaf edges on the Nigra variety are so dark that they appear to be almost black in colour. The border colouring can either be dotted or run in a continuous line along the edges of the leaves.
Panda plant with black tipped leaves
Some varieties of panda plant have almost completely black leaf edges [Photo: hanohiki/ Shutterstock.com]
  • Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Rubra’: The felt-like leaves of this delightful variety have, as the name suggests, a reddish hue, which is particularly pronounced along the edges. The plant as a whole also has a striking golden-red shimmer.
Kalanchoe tomentosa with red rimmed leaf edges
The red hue of this Kalanchoe tomentosa is particularly pronounced [Photo: ASSANA8888/ Shutterstock.com]

How to plant Kalanchoe tomentosa

Plant your panda succulent in spring at the beginning of the growing season. Place your plant in a bright spot indoors where you can maintain a cosy 23°C. This warm temperature can be maintained throughout the winter too, as long as the succulent gets enough light. However, it is also possible to overwinter the plant at around 15°C. Use a plant pot with a hole in the bottom to ensure good drainage and plant into cactus or succulent compost. Cactus soil is not too rich in nutrients and is highly permeable, providing good aeration of the roots. All these properties will promote healthy growth for your Kalanchoe tomentosa.

Kalanchoe tomentosa care

As already mentioned, Kalanchoe tomentosa is very low maintenance. The fact that it can store water in its leaves means it can survive dry periods. You actually only need to water your succulent if the soil feels dry. Give your panda plant a good soak but avoid waterlogging by removing any excess water from the saucer under your plant pot. There is hardly any need to water the plant in winter.

Bear in mind that panda succulents grow slowly. In the first year after purchase or repotting, the succulent does not need to be fertilised at all. If you want to stimulate growth a little, add a small amount of fertiliser to the soil when watering every four weeks during the growing period, so between spring and autumn. For this, you could use our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food which supplies the plant with not only nitrogen, but also potassium, which is important for succulents. On top of that, the microorganisms in our fertiliser promote healthy root growth.

Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food
Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food
Liquid fertiliser with an NK ratio of 3-4, for all houseplants, promotes healthy plant growth, child & pet friendly

If you notice that your succulent is outgrowing its plant pot, you need to repot it. Do this at the beginning of the growing season in spring to allow the plant time to establish itself well in the new soil.

Summary: Kalanchoe tomentosa care

  • Only water when the soil feels dry to the touch
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • Hardly water at all in winter
  • Do not fertilise in the first year after buying
  • In the following years, between spring and autumn, apply liquid fertiliser when watering every 4 weeks
  • Repot in spring when the old pot has become too small
Close up of panda plant leaves
Propagation of the panda plant is possible through various methods [Photo: Christina Siow/ Shutterstock.com]

Propagating Kalanchoe tomentosa

The best way to propagate the panda plant is to take cuttings during the growing period. To do this, cut off one or more leaves straight from the main shoot using a sharp knife. Once cut, leave to air dry until a callus has formed – this can take a few days. Plant the cutting with the calloused edge facing downwards in well-drained soil. Depending on the growth habit of the Kalanchoe tomentosa, it is also possible to cut off one whole side shoot and plant it in moist succulent soil. Put a plastic bag over the pot to help to increase humidity. For the young plants to grow well, they need a bright and warm location. After about 10 to 12 weeks, the cuttings will have formed roots and can continue to grow. For propagating Kalanchoe tomentosa plants from seed, place the seeds on moist succulent soil in a bright and warm place. Germination generally begins after about 10 days.


A close relative of the panda plant is flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana). The plant gets its name from its wonderfully colourful, radiant blooms. Find out more about the easy to care for flaming Katy.

Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.
Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic