Kalanchoe is one of the five most popular succulents in the world, for a good reasons. It is relatively small (you can grow it anywhere), it has wonderful flowers (ranging in colors from yellow to violet depending on variety, but the most famous are the dark red), and it is an easy plant to grow for beginners, since it isn’t vulnerable to pests and other plant diseases. Having said that, some people experience a certain problem with their Kalanchoe–the leaves falling off. In this post I will analyze the problem, and tell you when you need to be worried, and what you should do.
Before we dive into details, let me start with a quick summary. Kalanchoe leaves fall off mostly due to three reasons. First one is natural falling of leaves (more to it in a second). Second one is bad watering of the plant. The third one is infestation with powdery mildew or some fungus, which Kalanchoes aren’t particularly vulnerable to, but they may “catch the disease” from other plants you keep nearby. Let’s have a look at all three causes (and potential remedies) in detail.
All plants in nature shed leaves, including succulents and Kalanchoe in particular
I love autumn walks. You walk down the park watching colorful leaves flying all around you, and rustling beyond your feet. It may seem like an end of something, and perhaps that’s why it always gives me a good emotion, because when something ends, something new always begins… Succulents and Kalanchoes in particular do not shed leaves in such a pompous manner like maple or oak trees. They do it more slowly, and they often do it throughout the entire year, shedding older leaves and replacing them with new ones.
Some people observe their plants too carefully, and worry for no reason. If you see some leaves of your Kalanchoe turning yellow or brown and fall off, but others are green and still perfectly sound, and you also see new stems and leaves growing, it typically isn’t a reason to worry. Your plant is simply doing its thing like all plants do. This process may intensify in some seasons, especially if you do not heat your house properly, and the temperature drops somehow in autumn or winter. In any case, this is all completely normal, and no reason to worry.
Kalanchoe leaves falling off due to bad watering
If may surprise you but Kalanchoe may start shedding leaves when under-watered, but also when over-watered! Let me explain the phenomenon in more detail. When plants are thirsty, they do not get enough water to support their entire structure. Trying to save what matters the most for them (flowers when they flower, stems when they don’t), they will simply stop transferring the little water and nutrients they still get to some (or most) of their leaves, and these will start to fall off. Check the moisture of the soil of your Kalanchoe. It the soil is as dry as a desert and you haven’t watered your plant for three weeks, chances are high it simply needs some water.
What may surprise you though is that over-watering is actually much more common with Kalanchoes than under-watering. Kalanchoe is a succulent, native to semi-desert areas. It isn’t used to getting water too regularly and in big quantities. Hence people who take too much care and water it too often may often “drown it in water”. This alone doesn’t cause leaves to fall. That’s just the next step in the chain of cause and effect. Over-watering causes root rot. And once the roots are damaged, they cannot do their job well anymore–transferring water and nutrients to other parts of the plant. Hence it will start dying, and shedding of leaves is one of the common symptoms.
Addressing over-watered and under-watered Kalanchoe (Flaming Katy)
As you can imagine, it is much easier dealing with under-watering than it is with over-watering. Kalanchoe is a versatile plant. If the leaves dry and fall off because of the lack of water, as soon as you improve your watering schedule, the problem will sort of resolve itself, in a short time. Things get much more tricky with over-watering though…
If you’ve been drowning your Kalanchoe in excessive water for too long, the rooting system may be damaged to an extent that it cannot recuperate. You can always try repotting the plant in drier soil and removing the damaged part of roots, but it may not always work. Anyway, if you do not want to throw the plant away, you can try repotting it to some high quality quick-drying soil for succulents, and hope for the best.
Kalanchoe leaves falling off due to powdery mildew or some fungal infection
If there’s white stuff on your Kalanchoe, and if you’ve seen it for a while before the leaves started to fall off, it is almost certain your plant is infected with powdery mildew. We have an article online on how to address this issue on succulents, and you can check it out here. However, what I want to point out here is that I strongly suggest you opting for natural remedies (for powdery mildew and other infections), because wrong application of certain fungicides and other chemicals may also lead to Kalanchoe leaves falling off…
In my opinion, unless you have some emotional attachment to the plant in question (you got it as a gift from someone dear to you for example, or it is your first-ever succulent), it makes more sense throwing an infested Kalanchoe away than trying to treat it with some chemicals. It is a small inexpensive plant, you can always buy it in any good store, and start anew. Infested plant may easily infest other plants in your house (especially if you keep them close together), which is another reason for simply not bothering with cure in this particular case.
As you can see now, leaves of your Kalanchoe (Flaming Katy) may start to fall off from a variety of reasons. Some of them represent no reason to worry at all, whereas others may signify some issue, which may be easy to address (such as under watering), or harder to address (such as over-watering or powdery mildew).
At the end of the day you should also remember that taking care of plants and succulents in particular follows the laws of nature–it isn’t something man made with exact rules. And while the reasons I identified on this page are the most common reasons why your Kalanchoe leaves may start falling off the plant, in 5% of cases something else is to blame, and you have to continue searching. Hope this helps, and I wish you good luck with your plants!
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