I have two Kalanchoes on my south-facing kitchen windowsill (about 3' / 1m wide), both cuttings from the same parent plant (which succumbed to mealy bugs). Both are in the same size pot (no more than 1.5' apart), were planted at the same time using the same potting compost (Miracle-Gro brand, if it's significant) and both get watered and fed on the same schedule.

However, one stays low and bushy and is covered with flowers in the springtime. The other is tall and straggly (if I pinch out a growing tip, a single side-shoot will take over), drops all its leaves along the stalks and has never flowered. The neighbor had a large tree in her yard that shaded it during summer, but she took it out early last year. The flowering one gets shaded by her house slightly earlier in the afternoon.

The leaves on the troubled plant fade to yellow, then dry out and turn brown (at which point I pick them off). But I see the same pattern with older leaves on the other plant, just on the troublesome plant a leaf's lifespan seems much shorter, so that I only have a small clump of leaves at the top of a stalk.

This is a picture of my kitchen windowsill. From left to right, Hippeastrum, "bad" Kalanchoe (longest stalk is about 3'; it's starting to pull itself out of its pot!), Abutilon, cut rose, "good" Kalanchoe (and even it's starting to get straggly in its old age), Hippeastrum.

Kitchen windowsill

I've checked for pests on them, but haven't found any. What is causing the different growth habit, and how do I fix it?

  • Reading up on kalanchoes, it sounds like they produce little plantlets (I'm reminded of spider plants). These can then be easily propagated, or if left on their own will fall off (i.e. natural propagation). Is it possible that these cuttings are actually different plantlets? If so, they probably aren't true clones and are not quite true to the original plant.
    – winwaed
    Jun 15, 2011 at 15:56
  • No, these were cuttings. As I said, the plant had been attacked by mealy bugs and I salvaged the tips of two branches
    – Niall C.
    Jun 15, 2011 at 16:02
  • @Niall C. could you please post a photo of each plant and maybe one with both plants in the same photo. Also, is the one that gets a little more afternoon shade still doing better than the other one?
    – Mike Perry
    Aug 22, 2011 at 17:58
  • 3
    Have you tried reversing their positions in the windowsill to see if it is an environmental cause?
    – bstpierre
    Aug 22, 2011 at 19:08
  • @mikeperry: Sorry, I was away when you posted the comment and completely spaced it until the answer below was posted. Added a photo. The "good" one is still doing better, though as I've noted below, it's getting straggly too and I'm thinking of starting over with new cuttings.
    – Niall C.
    Sep 17, 2011 at 1:50

1 Answer 1


This strange growing behavior might be an example of topophysis, which describes the situation when cuttings from different parts of the plant have different growth characteristics. According to The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation (1987), by Michael Dirr and Charles Hauser, "... cuttings taken from lateral branches of Taxus cuspidata var. capitata, upright Japanese yew, produced spreading plants, while vertical cuttings yielded an upright version similar in habit to the parent." Perhaps, kalanchoe behaves similarly. Cuttings taken from the top of the plant produce upright tall plants. Whereas, cuttings taken from the side produce spreading bushy plants.

The Elisabeth C. Miller horticultural library has a bit more information in a knowledge base article on topophytic plants. Still, no specifics on kalanchoe.

  • 2
    This is a very interesting theory, and one I'll be able to test: I'd already decided to start over with cuttings from the "good" plant (it's a few years old and it's starting to look straggly too), but I can save a couple of cuttings from the "bad" plant and put them all in one big pot and compare their growth over the next few months.
    – Niall C.
    Sep 17, 2011 at 1:18

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