Today’s post is a reader request + is all about caring for kalanchoe orgyalis, aka ‘copper spoons‘ plant. This cinnamon coloured plant with silver undersides is one of my favourite succulents in my collection because of it’s unique colouring + easy-going nature — it basically thrives on neglect here at HPH! This copper spoons kalanchoe has been with me for nearly 3 years now + prior to finding this, it was one that I was always looking for when I’d visit the nursery. Believe it or not, I found this in a sorry state whilst at the grocery store, soggily sitting on a dark shelf, alongside many other overwatered succulents! It was the only kalanchoe orgyalis there + I bagged it for a grand total of 99p!
Side note: If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m always partial to a supermarket rescue mission, but I’d always recommend checking carefully for pests if you do this too + it’s a good idea to also quarantine your plants at home for a few weeks, away from other houseplants before integrating them. Anyway, the photos below show a comparison from April 2018 (left) to now (right) + my plant has really flourished into a staple of my windowsill plant gang. If you like the look of this kalanchoe, there’s also a ‘silver spoons’ variety which is next on my succulent wish list — I think they would look so good displayed in two identical pots next to each other on a shelf!
In this care guide we will be covering the topics of:
- humidity + leaf care
- potting mix (+ pots)
- + propagation
As with many succulents, light not only plays quite a significant part in the growth habit of this kalanchoe, but also has a big impact on the colouring of the spoon-shaped leaves. I’ve always grown my plant in a fairly bright position — a south/south-western/south-eastern exposure (I’m in the Northern hemisphere) which accounts for the rich colour of my plant. In a location with indirect, softer light, the plant will take on a lighter peachy tone, perhaps with some silvery colouration coming through too. At present, my plant lives behind a net in a downstairs south-east window, which gets a good amount of light throughout the day, but not as intense as in the summer months of course. My favourite thing about these plants is how the changing light intensity can be traced on the colour of the leaves over time. If you look closely at the photo below, you’ll see that the brightest saturation of colour correlated to the summer months, where the plant was close to the window + has really taken on a deep, warm appearance. Over time, the colours do fade on older growth, which creates a striking ombre effect of graduated tones.
Remember that these are the conditions personal to my own current environment + are used as a guide for you to compare with your own home. Things like light intensity can fluctuate dramatically throughout the year which is why you might find yourself moving your plants around in line with seasonal shifts. Location + light intensity are also intrinsically connected to more environment-based concerns such as the size + positioning of your windows, whether or not you have other buildings close by, or if there are obstacles like trees outside. This is something to take time to understand in your personal space — I have really noticed these factors in this temporary cottage because I’d previously been used to larger sash windows in my old second floor apartment as you’ll see in the photos below, whereas here, the light is intense at the front of the house coming through the smaller leaded windows, before tailing off quite severely (not my windows of choice but I’m working with it for now). You can just about spot my kalanchoe orgyalis in the middle of my old apartment’s desk set up if you look closely! For reference this photo is from September 2019:
In somewhere quite dark, the kalanchoe stem(s) will stretch + the plant will get tall + leggy between the succulent leaves. This can look a little odd, but combined with a bit of lower leaf drop or pruning, you can actually get your copper spoons to look tree-like in form which can be really attractive. If the light is too bright, the leaves have a tendency to dry at the edges. To keep the growth upright in form + it’s a good idea to rotate your plant every few days/weeks or the stems can sometimes stretch a little —especially in darker conditions!
I must say that I really am a bit neglectful when it comes to watering my copper kalanchoe — so from my own experience, I can say that I have found these plants to be extremely forgiving! Because of it’s solid, sculptural shape, the plant never really looks like it needs watering like a lot of my other leafy houseplants do. Over Spring + Summer when I observe active growth, I tend to water around once every 2 weeks. In the colder months, this can easily be halved to somewhere around once a month-6 weeks if your temperatures are cold like mine. Overwatering can really cause more problems than not watering enough so I’d always recommend being more cautious than overzealous! If the plant consistently receives too much water, the stem will undoubtedly rot.
Another point to note — I try be careful when watering to keep these warm-toned leaves dry as I’ve found water to cause marking to the fuzzy texture. In winter, I will often use a watering plate to give my succulents a drink from below, which allows them to take up what moisture they need. I fill a large drip tray with tepid water + allow the kalanchoe to sit there for approximately 30mins.
These two photos are some of the earliest I could find of my plant — according to my camera roll, the picture on the left was taken on the day I bought this plant on the 7th April 2018 + the photo to the right was taken 4 months later:
HUMIDITY + LEAF CARE
When it comes to humidity, normal household conditions suit the kalanchoe orgyalis really well — they are even quite amenable to low humidity so are very easy-going in this respect. These plants won’t benefit from a humid environment so they aren’t a good choice for a bathroom or steamy kitchen — reserve these positions for your humidity loving foliage plants like ferns.
In terms of cleaning, if your plant is situated on a windowsill, you might find it to get a little dusty, especially if you live in a city or near a main road. I like to use a dry, fluffy paintbrush to clean these leaves. Copper spoons are pretty sturdy so can take a bit of friction + I’ve never damaged my plant by cleaning it like this. Pay attention to where the leaves join the stem as this can be a potential area where pests can congregate if dust builds up — more on this later.
Kalanchoe orgyalis is a slow growing houseplant — so don’t be alarmed if your plant doesn’t seem to be doing an awful lot! As you should be able to tell in the photos throughout this post, my plant started out in a tiny pot with a few leaves, into something modestly statuesque (in succulent scale at least) over the space of nearly 3 years. Between March + October I fertilise around once a month with a balanced liquid houseplant fertiliser at half the recommended dilution rate. If your climate is quite different to mine + you find your plants grow year-round, then more regular fertilising is fine. It’s very cold where I live during Winter + with the harsh decrease in temperatures, I’m getting used to my houseplants stopping growing altogether. The easiest way to judge whether or not to feed is if your plant has new leaves growing!
So far, I’m pleased to report I’ve not experienced any pest issues with my kalanchoe. Unlike some other succulents that have more of a clump formation or rosette structure, these leaves have a nice amount of space around them, particularly as it’s a single stemmed pot. The aforementioned plants with a compact growth habit can suffer a pest attack more easily as there are plenty of places pests can hide, but there aren’t many options for that on this copper kalanchoe. A consistent care routine helps keep your plant resilient to pests, alongside the occasional feed when they are growing during Spring + Summer in particular. The main reason pests can appear is often a result of incorrect care, or very low humidity + under watering coupled with hot, dry conditions. Mealybugs can make an appearance on a very neglected kalanchoe so keep an eye out for fluffy white deposits where the leaves join the stem, or on the undersides of the foliage . If the attack is small, these can be wiped off with a cotton swab coated in rubbing alcohol + monitored.
From looking back through my photos, I can see that I’ve repotted my copper spoons plant twice in the last 3 years, so it’s very undemanding to have around! The plant doesn’t have a big root structure so frequent repotting will just cause unnecessary stress for your plant with no benefit — please don’t think that sticking it in a large planter will make it grow more quickly! Once every year or so is fine, just check the roots to see if they are starting to circle around the bottom of the pot or if the plant is starting to get dry tips on the leaves, which can signal a re-pot might be required. I only re-pot my succulents during the growing season + I leave them alone in the colder months for them to have their winter rest.
As a growth progress comparison at this point, the photo on the left is from May 2019, to the right from December 2020:
In terms of potting mix, I like to use a fairly free draining option to keep the roots from getting soggy; I make up a concoction of cacti + succulent compost, orchid bark, horticultural grit + some perlite. Here’s the link to the base mix I like to make up, with links.
A NOTE ON POTS: It sounds obvious but the type of pot you choose to use is also connected to your mix + watering requirements. If you are used to using nursery pots + choose to pop your kalanchoe in terracotta, it can take a while to adapt to the different watering needs. It’s quite common to find that you might be under watering because terracotta is much more porous + will wick the moisture away from the plant. If you want to use terracotta, it’s a good idea to soak your plant pot for a few hours before potting in preparation. If you prefer to use a nursery pot, you can always use the terracotta as a cover (cache) pot. Using terracotta can have benefits of course, especially in preventing root rot, but be mindful of the combination of a very free-draining potting mix PLUS terracotta as you might need to increase watering quite considerably. It’s all about balance + knowing what works for you. I know quite a few over-waterers use terracotta to compensate for a heavy-hand with the watering can!
As a slow grower, it might be no surprise that propagation of this copper spoons kalanchoe also requires some patience! The easiest way to propagate these plants is to remove offsets (small plants) around the vase of the mother plant — to encourage this, it’s best to keep the plant quite tight in the pot with infrequent repotting as this encourages the plant to grow offsets as a survival technique. The other options are to take leaf or stem cuttings, but this process can be slow. If you have a multi-stemmed plant, you can cut the stem with a clean blade + leave to callus over for a few days before planting. Succulents can root successfully in cacti + succulent potting mix, water, or straight perlite. There are two posts on succulent propagationI’ve put together here + here if you want to read more.
So there we go! Putting this post together has made me realise I don’t photograph my succulents + cacti enough — but I will make more of an effort to do this when I have a more suitable position for them. Hope this kalanchoe orgyalis care guide has been helpful to those that asked for a post about looking after this lovely, colourful plant! It’ll be saved under my ‘Plant Care Guides’ on my homepage if you want to refer back to it + here are some pins to share or save too: