Kalanchoe sexangularis N.E.Br.
Common names: bushveld kalanchoe, red-leaved kalanchoe (Eng.); bosveldplakkie, rooiblaarplakkie (Afr.)
Kalanchoe sexangularis is a hardy and drought-resistant succulent, with decorative red foliage that’s a must-have for the rockery, garden or patio, and unlike many other succulents, it will also flourish in dappled shade.
Kalanchoe sexangularis is an evergreen, robust, water-wise, succulent shrublet. It grows upright on square stems that are green when young and become brown and flaky as they mature. The stems have a tendency to be lax and droopy and lie flat as the leaves become too large and heavy for the thin stems to support. It does not exceed heights of 1.5 m and has an unlimited spread, as that is the nature of its growth habit. Its attractive, broad, glossy and deeply serrated foliage reach lengths of 50–120 mm. When grown in shade the leaves tend to be greenish red, more green than red, but when in full sun, they tend to be ruby red. The leaves also turn red when there is a drop in temperature during the winter months.
It has small, yellow, tubular flowers on a tall, branched inflorescence seen in winter–spring (June–September), followed by fleshy, green seed capsules that turn brown and papery from late August onwards. This plant is a fast grower.
According to the website http://redlist.sanbi.org, checked on 12/08/2016, the conservation status of this plant is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
This plant is not confined to South Africa, as it can also be found in Zimbabwe and Swaziland. In South Africa, its provincial distribution is Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It grows on rocky slopes, often near the tops of hills or on ridges, in bushveld, usually in the shade or semi-shade of trees or shrubs.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name of this genus is believed to be derived from the Chinese Kalan Chauhuy meaning ‘that which falls and grows’, likely referring to how many of the species in this genus have the ability to grow into mature plants from stems that have dropped. On the other hand, some believe it to be derived from the ancient Indian words kalanka meaning ‘spot or rust’ and chaya meaning ‘glossy’, referring to the reddish glossy leaves of the Indian species Kalanchoe laciniata. The specific epithet sexangularis meaning ‘6-angled’ is derived from the Latin words, sex meaning ‘six’ and angularis, meaning ‘angular’ or having ‘angles or corners’, which refers to the angled stems on this plant.
The flowers attract bees, butterflies and other insects, and also insect-eating birds.
There are no known medicinal uses of this species.
This is a versatile plant in the garden. It can be used in borders, in rockeries or as a filler in mixed beds. It is suitable for coastal or bushveld gardens. It is a champion performer in water-wise gardens, and it is a good container plant.
Growing Kalanchoe sexangularis
This is a fast-growing plant and a beauty to have in the garden. Older plants every so often need a hard prune to keep growth tidy, as well as beautiful and lush. Some might say prune after flowering, but it is generally only necessary when material becomes old and untidy. This plant is a good contrasting plant, especially when combined with Kalanchoe longiflora, Curio crassulifolius, Oscularia deltoides, Cotyledon orbiculata and other grey-foliaged plants.
This plant can be propagated both sexually by seeds and asexually by cuttings. Seeds can be harvested from plants in winter, from July onwards, and left to dry and mature. Sow seeds in spring. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them directly into a garden bed, pot or bag. However, growing plants from seeds requires patience, and the quickest and preferred methods are by means of cuttings, dividing young suckers from motherplants and leaf cuttings. Suckers can be harvested throughout the year. Cut off a sucker of your size preference, remove a third of the lower foliage, place cutting in a dry place void of direct sunlight for ± a week and allow to callus. (Allowing suckers to callus avoids pathogens or diseases and also shortens the time it takes for plants to become established.) Place cuttings into a medium consisting of 40% river sand, 20% coarse, washed silica sand, 10% sifted bark, 15% perlite and 15% vermiculite. Keep cuttings in a well-lit place, away from direct sunlight for 2–3 weeks after they have rooted, whereafter they will be ready for direct sunlight and their final destination in the garden. Make use of all the material, allow nothing to go to waste; the leaves removed from suckers can be used as leaf cuttings. With leaf cuttings allow them to callus for ± a week, void of direct sunlight. Once callused, place the base of the leaf a quarter deep into the medium. In 4–5 weeks young shoots should be appearing where cuttings were inserted. Cuttings should be kept moist, but not soggy, in a cool, well-lit space.
Kalanchoe sexangularis is not prone to pests or diseases, but snails and slugs and various beetles have been observed feeding on the foliage. They can be physically removed or treated with a contact pesticide. Occasionally they are attacked by mealybug and soft scale which should be taken care of by means of a systemic pesticide as opposed to using a contact pesticide which will have minor effect as both insects have protective coverings.
Do not use liquid foliar feeds on this plant, as it tends to scorch or cause brown spots on the leaves; rather use a soil drench or granular feed, preferably organic.
- Eggli, U. & Newton, L.E. 2004. Etymological Dictionary of succulent plant names. Springer, Berlin.
- Flora of southern Africa via Plants of southern Africa online checklist http://posa.sanbi.org/flora/results_browse.php?src=FloraSA&taxon=genno=3823 accessed on 29/07/2016
- Grow wild, purposely indigenous. http://growwild.co.za/trees/kalanchoe-sexangularis Accessed on 29/07/2016
- Kumbula indigenous garden, a database of indigenous South African flora. http://kumbulanursery.co.za/plants/kalanchoe-sexangularis Accessed on 20/07/2016
- Wild flower nursery, indigenous for a sustainable future. http://wildflowernursery.co.za/indigenous-plant-database/kalanchoe-sexangularis/ Accessed on 29/07/2016
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Shrub, Succulent
SA Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Spring, Winter
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Yellow
Aspect: Full Sun, Morning Sun (Semi Shade), Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Easy