With grey-green ornamental leaves edged in red and a majestic yellow bloom, desert cabbage leaves a lasting impression on the beholder. How little the tropical beauty has in common with native, high-care cabbage types is also illustrated by the frugal undemanding nature of this two-year-old, robust potted plant. In order for the exotic succulent to exude its charismatic charm on the summer balcony or the windowsill at home, only marginal gardening attention is required. Find out here how to properly care for Kalanchoe thyrsiflora.


  • Plant family: Crassulaceae
  • Popular species within the genus Kalanchoe
  • Common name: desert cabbage
  • Native to the bushlands of South Africa
  • Biennial succulent
  • Grey-green ornamental leaves, ovate to elongate-lanceolate
  • Rounded foliage, later edged in red
  • Growth height 75-150 cm
  • Yellow, fragrant inflorescence up to 30 cm high in the second year
  • Temperature minimum 10 degrees Celsius

After desert cabbage has impressively blossomed in the second year, the plant dies.


The linchpin of a professional care of Kalanchoe thyrsiflora is the choice of an adequate location. The closer the light and temperature conditions are to South African conditions, the more magnificently the striking habit unfolds. The stand should be like this:

  • Sunny and warm
  • Optimum temperature of 18 to 25 degrees Celsius
  • Ideally on the window sill on the south-west or south-east window
  • Protected from the pounding rain on the balcony

In contrast to other tropical succulents, desert cabbage does not make any special demands on the humidity. Even with dry heating air, the houseplant does not go limp. However, we recommend placing bowls filled with water or a simple humidifier in the room during the winter.

Note: Although Kalanchoe thyrsiflora prefers a sunny to full sun spot, the plant should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Before the tropical beauty moves to the sun-drenched balcony, it is therefore accustomed to direct sunlight in a semi-shady place over the course of 1-2 weeks.

watering and fertilizing

As a typical succulent plant, desert cabbage favors a periodically moist substrate. If there is an accidental short-term drought, this shortcoming is easily tolerated, since the fleshy leaves have stored plenty of moisture. It is actually an advantage if the root ball dries, since at this time air can reach the roots. This process contributes significantly to vital plant health. In contrast, any waterlogging proves to be lethal, as this regularly leads to root rot. How to water Kalanchoe thyrsiflora correctly:

  • Pour soft, room-warm water directly onto the root ball
  • Only water again when the substrate surface has dried noticeably
  • When in doubt, it is better to water a little later than too early

If the succulent plant dries out unintentionally, a little tact is required to resolve the dilemma. If the plant now received a gush of water, this measure would put it into a state of shock. Ideally, water the troubled Kalanchoe in small batches throughout the day.

Tip: Collected rainwater best accommodates the desire for a slightly acidic substrate. Where there is no access to it, stagnant tap water also meets the requirements of desert cabbage for the lowest possible water hardness.

Potted in pre-fertilized succulent soil, there is usually no need for additional fertilizer for the two-year cultivation. If several specimens colonize a planter, the supply of nutrients is used up after the first year. In this case, we recommend the monthly application of liquid cactus fertilizer from April to September. In the course of the hibernation, desert cabbage generally does not receive any fertilizer.


If you bought the desert rose in a planter that was too small, the pot will be completely rooted after the first year. In this case, transplant the succulent plant in early spring. The same applies if the leaf rosettes completely cover the earth. Due to the flat root formation, correspondingly flat bowls are primarily considered, which necessarily have a water drain in the bottom. A lean, well-drained cactus substrate is perfectly suited for the professional care of Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. This slightly acidic soil is optimized by adding 40 percent lava granules or expanded clay. This is how the repotting works properly:

  • Spread a 4-5 cm layer of potsherds over the water drain as drainage
  • Repot the desert rose to remove any stunted and dead leaves
  • Insert into the fresh soil while maintaining the previous planting depth
  • Pour sips with soft, lukewarm water
Note: If the desert rose you have just purchased is in common potting soil, the first care on the agenda is to repot it in lean, acidic cactus or succulent soil, enriched with sand, perlite or lava granules.


If the mercury column falls permanently below the 10-degree mark, the summer stay in the open air ends. In order for desert cabbage to get through the winter healthy and lively in order to show off its flowers next year, these aspects are important:

  • Place in a light and frost-free place from October to March at 12-18 degrees Celsius
  • Water very sparingly and do not fertilize
  • Allow the root ball to dry well between waterings

The higher the temperatures during the winter, the more light is required for a successful overwintering. If in doubt, supplement the natural light with a plant lamp positioned about 20 cm above the desert cabbage. If the location is in the bright conservatory or on the south-facing window sill, this effort is unnecessary.


Following the impressive bloom, the desert rose breathes out its two-year life. Anyone who was allowed to experience their floral guest appearance on the balcony and the windowsill usually wants a sequel. How good that Kalanchoe thyrsiflora can be easily propagated with leaf cuttings. Here’s how to do it:

  • In spring, cut off a healthy leaf with a sharp, sanitized knife
  • Using a razor blade, cut a thin strip to reveal the plant tissue
  • Fill a small pot with pricking soil or peat sand
  • Either use the leaf cuttings upright or place them horizontally on the substrate and weigh them down

After the substrate has been slightly moistened, put on a transparent hood. Thanks to the tropical microclimate, small plants quickly develop along the cut edges. During this time, keep the leaf cuttings constantly moist in a partially shaded location. Once your succulents have reached a growth height of 2-3 cm, they are cut off with a razor blade. Now the tiny ones have the potential to become adult desert cabbages if they are cared for properly according to these instructions.

Hobby gardeners with limited time are well advised to use desert cabbage to creatively decorate the summer balcony or the windowsill at home. If the South African succulent plant finds a sunny location, it only needs a little horticultural attention. In order to properly care for Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, no significant previous knowledge is required. Watering moderately in summer and sips of soft water in winter means that the biennial potted plant does not need fertilizer. After boasting yellow blooms for the second year, the ornamental succulent dies off. How good that the floral spectacle can be repeated every year thanks to uncomplicated propagation using leaf cuttings.

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