Guest Author - Linda Genis
What is a paddle plant? There are several succulents with round paddle-shaped leaves that share this nickname – Kalanchoe luciae, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora and Cotyledon macrantha. They share other aliases, such as flapjack plant, desert cabbage and desert rose. Paddle plants are valued for their unusual leaves which look like pancakes set on edge.
The two kalanachoes can be distinguished by their color. Kalanchoe luciae has red edged leaves that turn a brighter shade when grown in full sun and its flower is pale yellow. The cultivar ‘Fantastic’ has variegated leaves. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora has chalky green leaves and deep yellow blooms with a strong scent.
Both plants have the same cultural requirements. Like most succulents, they require fast draining soil. They can be grown in full to part sun. They can grow to three feet tall in the ground but are frost tender, so are best suited to zones 9b – 12 outdoors. In other areas, the paddle plant is best grown in a container and can be grown indoors year-round. It prefers ph neutral soil but can grow in slightly alkaline soil. Slow release fertilizer applied in the summer and spring will help it grow. Handling the leaves can cause unsightly marks.
Brown spots on the leaves of the plant can be edema, fungus, or bacteria. The best way keep the leaves healthy looking to avoid wetting the leaves. This is best done by using a narrow necked watering can instead of an overhead sprinkler. The leaves can also be damaged by snails. Snail bait can be applied to the soil. If you are concerned about poisons an iron phosphate bait would be a safe snail solution.
Paddle plants can be propagated by seed or cuttings. Leaves with part of the petiole attached can be cut from the plant in late spring or summer. If your plant has reached sufficient age to bloom, wait until it finished blooming. The cuttings can be rooted in cactus mix out of full sun. Since the Kalanchoe luciae is monocarpic, it will die after flowering. However, little baby plants will be left on the stem. These can be cut off and rooted as well.
Cotyledon macrantha has a very similar appearance to Kalanchoe Luciae. It has red-edged oval leaves attached to a short stem. Like the kalanchoes, it is native to South Africa. It produces tubular red flowers in the winter and spring. The sap of this plant is toxic and has poisoned sheep that nibbled on its leaves.