The Kalanchoe tomentosa, or Panda Plant, originated on the island of Madagascar. Typically found on granite rocks in the wild, this succulent’s leaves are covered with tiny hairs that give it a furry look. A small plant that only grows up to one and a half feet, it’s often displayed in hanging baskets, on shelves, or in container gardens. The Panda Plant has several other names, including Chocolate Soldier, White Lady, Pussy Ears and Plush Plant.
Reddish-brown edges border the plant’s velvety, grayish green leaves. The Panda Plant gets its name from the texture of the leaves’ hairs, which resemble a panda’s fur.
What You Should Know about Panda Plants
Although most popular as indoor plants, the Kalanchoe Tomentosa is suitable for outdoor cactus gardens and succulent dish gardens. It easily withstands drought conditions and tolerates dry air well. If your home’s air tends to be warm and dry, the Panda Plant will prosper. Outdoors, the Kalanchoe Tomentosa thrives year-round in warm climates, including Southern California and parts of Arizona and Texas.
Display Kalanchoe Tomentosa plants in conservatory or sunroom. As long as you don’t leave the plant in constant bright light, it will do fine. Place small Panda plants near windows or on shelves that receive both filtered and direct sun throughout the day.
In warm or mild climates, grow the Panda Plant in a rock wall or rock garden, or in a xeriscape. In colder climates, you can plant it outdoors as an annual.
The round, hair-covered leaves branch out from this succulent plant’s center stem.
The Kalanchoe Tomentosa develops bell-shaped flowers in the wild but rarely blooms indoors. If you keep your Panda Plant outdoors, small, tube-shaped flowers may grow at the end of its branches.
Learn more about this velvety succulent in “5 Things you Didn’t Know About Succulents- Kalanchoe Tomentosa” from the Succulent Addict YouTube Video Channel
Planting and Propagation
If planting outdoors, find a hot spot in the garden that gets plenty of dappled sunlight.
The Panda Plant fares well outdoors in areas with little rainfall, like Arizona, Southern California, or parts of Texas. People in high rainfall areas (Seattle, Portland, Oregon, etc.) should raise Kalanchoe tomentosa indoors, as too much rain can damage or kill the plant.
To propagate new Panda plants, cut leaves in the spring or summer. Let leaves dry for a week before putting them in a container. Place the cuttings in a pot with perlite mix or sandy soil. They should take root in about four weeks. Ideally, you should use tree inch pots and position them in filtered, but bright, sunlight. Water the propagated plant when the top 0.8 inch becomes dry.
When roots appear, and new growth follows, move each plant into a pot with a standard succulent mixture. The pot should be large enough to hold the roots.
Potting and Repotting
Use a succulent potting mixture or soil mixture with a smattering of coarse sand. To ensure proper drainage, put a thin layer of clay pot pieces at the bottom of the container. The slow-growing The Kalanchoe tomentosa plant only needs to be repotted every two years, and less frequently after it matures. You won’t need to use a pot bigger than five inches for repotting.
Panda Plant Care
The Panda Plant has no special needs as far as temperature and humidity are concerned. It grows well in normal household humidity and warm temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees. Avoid exposing the plant to extremes in temperatures. Ventilate the plant well, but don’t expose it to cool drafts for long.
Water your Panda Plant when the top inch of soil has dried. Thoroughly soak the soil, but be sure not to leave any water in the bottom tray. The Kalanchoe tomentosa stores water in its leaves, meaning it can survive even if you don’t water it for extended periods of time. Cut back on watering the plant in the winter.
Hydrate the potting mix or water the Kalanchoe tomentosa from the bottom of the plant. The velvety leaves will rot if they get wet.
If you’re new to succulents and want to see what Panda plants look like in a healthy garden, check out the video “Kalanchoe Tomentosa (panda plant)” on the Trailers All the time YouTube Video Channel.
This succulent thrives in bright sunshine, but the Panda Plant ideally needs a mixture of bright and filtered sun. It’s fine to put it in the shade occasionally, but keep this succulent in the sunlight most of the time.
In the summer, position your Kalanchoe tomentosa in an area where it receives filtered light. To make leaves appear woolier and more velvety, place in bright sunlight for part of the day. Avoid direct sunlight during midday (roughly noon to 3 pm). Place in direct sunlight early in the morning or late afternoon.
Plant or repot your Panda plant in a commercial cactus potting mix formulated for both jungle and desert cacti. It will keep your plant healthy and provide the proper pH balance. The tropical Kalanchoe tomentosa may receive greater benefits from a homemade mixture made specifically for tropical cacti. Several potting soil combinations will work for this purpose.
- Mix 2 parts regular potting soil and 1 part small gravel (pumice or turface) or use a 50/50 mixture of perlite and potting soil (source)
- Use equal parts ground fir bark and peat moss to create a potting mixture that works for tropical and desert cacti.
- Mix one part builder’s sand to two parts of the potting base mix, which helps cacti retain moisture.
Like all cacti, the Panda Plant needs few nutrients. Only use a weak fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer, and skip fertilizing the rest of the year.
Problems and Precautions
The Kalanchoe Tomentosa’s leaves are toxic, so position your plant in a location far away from small pets.
Mealy bugs are attracted to the Kalanchoe tomentosa’s hairy leaves, but it may be hard to spot these tiny pests without inspecting the leaves up close. Spraying the leaves with an Imidacloprid-based insecticide keeps the mealy bugs in check.