My first encounter with the “Mother of Thousands” dates back to more than 40 years ago, back to the days of my youth when I mowed lawns and did other odd jobs for people around my neighborhood. One of the persons who I worked for was Dr. Edward S. Thomas, a noted naturalist who had been the director of the Ohio Historical Society some years earlier. Dr Thomas grew an exceptional assortment of unusual perennials, and grew some curious houseplants as well. I recall at least 4 succulent plants in his collection– Gasteria armgstrongii, Stapelia gigantea, Agave victoria-
The “Mother of Thousands” has a largely deserved reputation of being the Kudzu vine of the succulent world – where conditions are favorable, this plant can, and frequently will become invasive, quickly establishing hundreds, if not thousands of plantlets. Where conditions are especially favorable, this species can produce vast stands of genetically identical sister plants: in some regions of the country, where frosts are nearly nonexistent, this species can easily become a naturalized pest. This bad habit aside, the Mother of Thousands is an easy, interesting, and attractive plant – easy enough to grow for even the most inexperienced novices, but interesting and attractive enough that more seasoned growers will frequently maintain a plant in their collection.
The Kalanchoes are a genus of plants in the Crassulaceae family, mostly native to tropical and sub-
This is such an adaptable and forgiving species, that practically any growing regimen which includes bright light, sharply draining soil, and an occasional watering would probably result in reasonably good growth. It will grow quite well when provided with conditions outlined in my general guidelines for growing succulents, but to produce truly exceptional plants, it is best to grow this plant as a summer patio plant. When properly acclimatized to full sun, plants should produce exceptional growth, with more deeply colored and marked leaves. With somewhat more frequent watering, and a bit of extra fertilizer, this plant will grow up to about 3 to 4 feet in height with large, nicely colored leaves, laden with many plantlets. Plants grown in unprotected areas, where they will receive the full brunt of winds, and rain will be likely to have many of the plantlets knocked off their leaves; to minimize this, it would best to grow plants in a protected space along a southern or western foundation.
In years past, when any number of “ma and paw” nurseries were propagating succulents, tiny castaways of this plant could frequently be found as a bonus plant with other cactus purchases. Today, as nurseries become ever more streamlined and automated, it has become a bit more difficult to find this species in the trade. I imagine that it may even be illegal to grow this plant in some states, where it has a marked potential to become established as a weed, so I suspect that many nurseries have tried to eradicate all plants of this species from their greenhouses. A few succulent mail order nurseries still offer this plant, however, the easiest way to acquire a plant would be to contact your local cactus and succulent society – invariably, you will find at least one or two members who grow this species, who would be more than willing to share a few plantlets.
Just a word of caution -