Kalanchoe leaves turning soft, mushy, and discolored, or wrinkling and drying out often signify underlying issues with poor water habits.
You should know this is not normal, and your beloved plant may be telling you about the possible water damage.
Listen to this article here:
It may not take much time for Kalanchoes to exhibit problems when overwatered because they are susceptible to excess watering.
On the other hand, although rare, they may face water stress when severely underwatered.
Read on to determine how often to water and care for your Kalanchoe plants to avoid possible water damage.
Table of Contents Show
- When does Kalanchoe Need Water?
- How to Know if Kalanchoe is Over or Underwatered?
- Factors that Impact Watering Kalanchoe
- Should you Mist Kalanchoe Leaves?
- Tips to Water Kalanchoe
- The Best Watering Technique
- Editor’s Note
When does Kalanchoe Need Water?
Kalanchoe does well even when you forget to water them regularly, but they will not tolerate overwatering at all.
Remember, these are succulent plants that hold water in the leaves and stems. Hence, they do not need constantly moist soil.
Nine out of ten problems with Kalanchoe are caused by overwatering the plant.
Do not worry yet, because it is pretty common with many gardeners, but be prepared to tackle the issues afterward.
Here is how you will know when to water your plant.
1. When the Top Soil Dries Out
The best time to water Kalanchoe is when the two to three inches of topsoil dries out completely.
- The best rule of thumb is to stick your finger into the soil to check if it is moist or may feel drier and rugged.
- It may be slightly tricky to enter your finger when the top few inches have entirely dried out, so you would know that it is time to water your plant.
- Outdoor Kalanchoe dry out sooner than those kept indoors; hence you should water them every two weeks.
2. When it is Newly Planted
A newly planted Kalanchoe will require moist soil conditions to expand its root system.
Hence, water them daily compared to the matured plant.
- As a rule of thumb, you should water the potting just enough to moisten it.
- Make sure to mist the leaves every few times daily to provide the much-needed humidity.
- Keep the soil slightly moist for about three months, after which you can resume the regular watering schedule.
Remember, newly planted Kalanchoe need moist but soggy soil to become established, so do not water them too often than required.
3. When it is Fertilized
A recently fertilized Kalanchoe requires watering to help the nutrients reach the roots quickly.
- You should thoroughly water your plant immediately after monthly fertilization.
- The potted Kalanchoes require fertilizing once a month, from spring until fall. The outdoor plants only require fertilizing when there is new growth.
- Cut back on fertilizing during winter and water the plant only once a month.
4. When the Temperature is High
The outdoor plant in summer and spring will take a lot of indirect sun and heat throughout the day, drying them out pretty quickly.
On the other hand, the indoor plant will require less watering (once in 2-3 weeks) because it receives constant shade and remains cool.
Do not forget to check for soil dryness by inserting your finger before watering again. You do not want to create overwatering problems with your plant.
Cut back on watering during winter entirely for both indoor and outdoor plants. Better bring your outdoor plant inside to avoid damage from low temperatures.
How to Know if Kalanchoe is Over or Underwatered?
It may be hard to ascertain if your plant is over or underwatered just by looking at the general appearance.
It is better to avoid confusion and misdiagnosis to prevent further problems with your plant.
Here are the signs for both over and underwatered Kalanchoe plants.
Signs of Overwatered Kalanchoe
As mentioned before, Kalanchoes do not tolerate overwatering conditions, which make their leaves swell and ultimately burst.
You would see the signs of problems quickly with the overwatered plant.
1. Soft and Mushy Leaves
An overwatered Kalanchoe plant leaves will start turning mushy and become soft and squishy within a matter of days.
Do not confuse the soft leaves with underwatered plants when the leaves lose their moisture-holding healthy tissue.
The leaves start turning mushy with some discoloration with an overwatered plant, such as black or yellow spots.
2. Translucent Leaves
The loss of natural green color in leaves indicates an overwatering problem.
They will exhibit translucent yellow and mushy leaves, where the top or center leaves will become vividly translucent.
3. Rotting of Leaves
The waterlogging condition will invite root rot in Kalanchoe that will slowly rise towards the stem and leaves.
Overwatering will deprive the plant roots of getting enough oxygen. With a limited oxygen supply, your plant cannot breathe.
Hence, the plant will start rotting from the bottom and increase through the crown towards the leaves.
4. Fungal Growth and Pests
Waterlogging will dampen the soil, encouraging fungal growth, powdery mildew, and gnat issues.
- Powdery mildew is a white, powdery substance that infests houseplants when the environment is too damp or moist. It mainly appears in the leaves and twigs.
- On the other hand, fungal gnats are attracted by waterlogging and fungal growths in the plant, which may cause root rot and foliar damage.
The damp soil promotes fungal growth, serving as a food source for fungal gnat larvae hiding under the ground.
The problem of fungal gnats is more common with indoor plants because it may take longer for the damp soil to dry out.
5. Leaves Dropping
Overwatering the succulents cause the leaves to turn swollen and weak.
Once they swell up, even a slight touch will cause the leaves to drop. You would usually notice this with the bottom leaves.
Because Kalanchoe store water in their leaves and stems, the swollen leaf will be the first sign of an overwatered plant.
Save an Overwatered Kalanchoe
You can easily save your plant when you notice the damages at an early stage.
Here are a few immediate ways to treat an overwatered plant.
- Excess watering will moisten the soil and plant roots; hence start with cutting back on water until the plant returns to its natural state.
- Start with removing dead leaves and twigs, which may take up vital energy from the plant.
- Leave it under direct sunlight for at least four hours to bring it back to its natural state. Check the soil conditions to see whether it is still moist or hardened.
- Leave the plant to get more sunlight if the soil is still moist; otherwise, you can bring it back inside in the indirect sunlit area.
- Wait until the leaves and stem regain their natural green colors before watering.
In case of pest infestation caused by overwatering.
- Use fungicide containing potassium bicarbonate to treat Powdery mildew and apply Neem oil, peroxide, and water solution through the soil at the root zone to kill fungal gnats.
- Cut the infected part of the roots that are severely infested with pests, including root-knot nematodes. The infected part will be smelly and look dark, brownish, or mushy.
- If the soil is severely infested with fungus and pests, you should better repot your plant to a fresh potting mix.
- Ensure to sanitize the pot before transplanting to prevent any chances of fungus infestation.
Signs of Underwatered Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe plants can easily handle minimal drought conditions; hence they are less likely to be bothered by underwatering.
However, it does not mean they do not need water at all.
Forgetting to water your plant regularly may easily damage them if the temperature is unusually high or the potting medium is wrong.
Here are some of the tell-tale signs of problems in an underwatered Kalanchoe plant.
1. Shriveled and Wrinkled Leaves
An underwatered Kalanchoe will mostly display wrinkled and shriveled leaves that will soon start dropping.
Also known as water stress, the leaves are the first to shrivel, wither and fall off. Along with underwatering, low humidity may also cause wrinkled leaves.
However, do not confuse it with mushy leaves commonly seen in an overwatered plant.
2. Drying Leaves
Kalanchoe may become wrinkled and start drying when it is deprived of water for a long time.
A succulent plant stores water in its leaves and stem, which they consume to replenish itself when there is no water around.
The water inside the leaves will dry quickly with prolonged underwatering, leaving the foliage thirsty. When the water dries up completely, the leaves start drying.
Check for leaves at the bottom that usually dry out first, followed by drying from the leaf margin or tips.
3. Browning Leaves
An underwatered Kalanchoe lacks Chlorophyll that gives the foliage its natural green pigment.
Once they disappear, the leaves will start drying. Afterward, they will turn light brown or yellowish at the tips.
However, do not confuse it with an overwatered plant that usually experiences yellowing of the leaves first.
4. Soft and Flat Leaves
Soft and flat leaves are another sign of a thirsty Kalanchoe plant.
The lack of water will deprive the plant of much-needed moisture that keeps its leaves healthy and plump-looking.
Once the water dries up, the leaves will weaken and start turning soft and flat.
Expect them to start drying off anytime soon.
5. Leaves Dropping
Leaf drop is standard in both over and underwatered Kalanchoe, but with an underwatered plant, the bottom leaves will go first.
Remember, an overwatered succulent will start dropping leaves from the part of the plant with even a slight touch.
An underwatered Kalanchoe will also stop blossoming and growing proportionally. Once it ceases its metabolic activity, it will soon die out.
Save an Underwatered Kalanchoe
After prolonged underwatering, your Kalanchoes will ultimately die.
You should strictly follow the watering schedule and watch for any unusual signs to prevent it.
Here are a few ways to treat an underwatered plant.
- Start with moving your plant to a shady area and removing dead or dying leaves.
- Next, rehydrate your plant by pouring enough water to moisten the soil but strictly avoid flooding the pot.
- Mist the leaves frequently throughout the day.
- Check for any signs of improvement. The rehydrated plant leaves should start turning green within a few days.
- Resume a regular watering schedule after a week. Once in two weeks during the growing season should suffice.
- Do not fertilize your plant until it has completely recovered. The chemicals may easily damage the already weak root system.
Prevent Overwatering and Underwatering Problems
Here are a few ways you can prevent both over and underwatering your Kalanchoe plant.
- Let the top 2-3 inches of soil dry between watering.
- As a rule of thumb, provide only two out of five parts of the pot size in water once in two or three weeks.
- Water your indoor plant once in three weeks compared to an outdoor plant that would need water once every week and a half or two weeks.
- Use a well-draining potting medium with drainage holes, such as Terracotta, ceramic, and clay pots.
- Avoid frequently watering and misting in winter when the plant goes dormant, as it may invite root rot problems from excess moisture.
- Switch to watering once a month during winter, depending on the soil’s dryness.
Factors that Impact Watering Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe is a perennial evergreen that gets lush, green foliage and blossoms yearly.
To ensure it remains that way, you should water them accordingly.
When watering your Kalanchoe, consider these essential factors.
1. Temperature Sensitivity
Spring and summer are ideal for growing Kalachoes because the outside temperature will be adequate. You can expect to water them once in two weeks during the growing season.
They can resist slight droughts, so you need not increase the watering frequency when the temperature exceeds 85°F, such as during the high time of summer.
The plant is sensitive to low temperatures during autumn and winter, so it is better to bring them indoors when cold outside.
Install a portable room heater in winter to ensure they get adequate warmth indoors,
2. Location (Indoor vs. Outdoor)
An indoor Kalanchoe needs slightly less watering because the soil remains moist for longer.
Some Kalanchoe breeds can survive very well in outdoor conditions. In contrast, a few species are only used for indoor decoration for their annual blossoms.
Consider the location of your plant and its requirement before starting the watering schedule.
3. Soil Condition
A well-draining soil prevents waterlogging and extreme humidity, bringing many overwatering problems in a Kalanchoe plant.
Hence, use a well-aerated and well-draining potting mix for this succulent.
You can water them only so much with a perfect potting mix to keep the soil slightly dry.
The sandier garden soil retains more water, so avoid using it for your Kalanchoe.
Kalanchoe loves relatively bright and sunny spots, including full morning sun; however, it may not do so well in direct sunlight.
Keep your plant close to the sunlight as much as possible, such as four to six hours of indirect sunlight daily.
However, those grown in low light and damp locations may witness overwatering problems because the soil always remains moist.
With the suitable lighting condition, your plant will effectively use its water storage, and you can expect to water them once in two weeks.
5. Types of Potting Medium
We should consider a potting medium because not all pots are identical.
Clay, ceramic, and terracotta pots help regulate the moisture inside the pot, which plastic pot fails to do.
A potting medium like clay, ceramic, or Terracotta is porous, allowing air and water to move through the sides; hence they are well-draining and prevent waterlogging.
You must water Kalanchoe grown in these potting mediums more frequently than plastic pots.
However, ensure that each potting medium has enough drainage holes to drain the excess water because Kalanchoes thrive in slightly dry soil.
6. Humidity Level
Kalanchoe enjoys relatively high humidity. Watering them at regular intervals helps to keep the humidity level up.
During the hottest time of the year, you should mist the plant leaves 2-3 times a day to ensure adequate humidity.
7. Sensitive Root System
Kalanchoe is a succulent plant with a sensitive root system.
It requires a potting medium with better aeration and water drainage to ensure the root remains moist-free most of the time.
You can skip watering if the soil is still moist but mist their leaves to keep them hydrated.
Should you Mist Kalanchoe Leaves?
Although Kalanchoes dislike excess moisture, occasionally misting the leaves will help protect them from drying up and curling.
Kalanchoes store water in the leaves that may dry up soon after the soil dries up, such as in hot summer.
Hence, misting their leaves two or three times a day will keep the humidity level up without damaging the plant with excess moisture.
However, do not mist their leaves when the plant goes dormant, like in fall and winter. Misting the leaves will raise the moisture to an alarming level.
Tips to Water Kalanchoe
Here is how you can effectively water your Kalanchoe plant without worrying about water damage.
1. Water from the Bottom
Water your plant from the bottom instead of the top down to prevent the chances of fungal infestation on the leaves.
Pour the water around the base of the plant using a cup or saucer.
When you do water from overhead, only do so early morning, so the foliage has time to dry out before nightfall.
2. Use an Appropriate Amount of Water
To avoid overwatering, measure the 2/5th of water (About Kalanchoe’s pot size) in a cup or saucer; this will be about an inch of water.
Avoid letting your plant sit in the rain to prevent waterlogging and damage to leaves caused by extreme rainfall.
3. Water after Fertilizing
Do not forget to water your plant after each feeding to ensure the nutrients easily reach the roots.
It is best to use balanced, organic fertilizer in either liquid or water-soluble form that does not damage the root system
4. Consider the Temperature
When the sun is up at all times during the growing season, you should water them every week and a half. The gap between watering will allow the moist soil to dry out!
Water only when the 2-3 inches of soil have dried out for at least two weeks for indoor plants.
If rain is in sight, you should better hide them under a plastic cover to avoid rainwater damage, as excessive rainwater can create waterlogging problems.
The Best Watering Technique
Kalanchoe is sensitive to overwatering, so you can spare it the frequent watering technique.
As per the rule of thumb, you should replenish water in your Kalanchoe when the top few inches of soil have dried out.
You can quickly assess it by gently sticking your finger into the soil up to the knuckle. If it is all the way dry, then it is time to water it again.
1. Soaking Method
The soaking and drying method is a popular technique for watering succulents. This is the traditional method of watering a succulent plant.
It involves saturating the soil with water and waiting until the soil mix dries up before watering it again.
Measure the water in a cup or tray and pour it directly onto the soil around the plant’s base. The root will slowly suck up the moisture from the soil.
2. Saucer Method
Alternatively, you can fill a tray with water and rest your pot in it to let it soak up the moisture from the bottom. Let it soak for several hours.
However, ensure to empty the saucer with the remaining water afterward to prevent excess moisture from seeping into the soil.
It will help to maintain humidity and preserve nutrients in the soil.
Beware of using self-watering pots. Although it may benefit forgetful gardeners, it is typically not ideal for succulent plants that prefer a dry medium.
Kalanchoes grow relatively slowly and can easily take up to two or three years to reach their mature size (6-12 inches).
You must adhere to an adequate watering schedule to ensure they bloom throughout the year and reach their maturity without any issues.
Let the few inches of the soil dry up well before watering again.
Cut back on watering when the soil is moist, the environment is too humid, the temperature is too low, and you witness the signs of an overwatered plant.