How to Revive a Dying Kalanchoe Plant

Why is my kalanchoe dying

Kalanchoe is one of my favorite houseplants, and they are easy to care for as long as we understand how they grow in the wild. If your kalanchoe is dying, then I find the solution is often to recreate the conditions of their native environment.

Kalanchoe are drought-resistant succulents that need the soil to dry out almost completely between each bout of watering. If the soil is consistently damp from overwatering, your kalanchoe can droop, and the stems can start to turn black and squishy.

Whilst overwatering is the most common reason for a dying kalanchoe, here is a table summarizing other reasons I see for dying kalanchoe plants:

Symptoms of a Dying Kalanchoe Plant:Reasons Your Kalanchoe is Dying:
Kalanchoe Growing Leggy and Tall:Not enough sunlight is the reason for a leggy kalanchoe plant. Kalanchoe needs full sun and grows leggy in the shade.
Kalanchoe Stems Drooping:Without enough light the kalanchoe’s stems can grow leggy and weak, causing them to droop. Overwatering and poor drainage are often contributing factors.
Kalanchoe Leaves Turning Yellow:Yellow leaves are often because of a combination of not enough light and overwatering.
Kalanchoe Stems Turning Black and Squishy:Black stems indicate stem rot which is due to overwatering and cold temperatures.

To save your dying kalanchoe, it is important to emulate the conditions of the kalanchoe’s natural environment by watering when the soil is nearly dry, replanting in succulent and cacti soil, and locating the plant in full sun.

However, I must warn you that propagating the plant may be the only way to save severely diseased plants.

Keep reading to learn how to implement the solutions to revive your dying kalanchoe…

My Kalanchoe is Growing Tall and Leggy

Kalanchoe grown tall and leggy due to a lack of direct sunlight
This particular kalanchoe has grown long and leggy as it was only in some bright light rather than full sun.
  • Symptoms: Kalanchoe stems growing tall with sparse foliage.
  • Causes: Lack of direct sunlight.

The reason kalanchoe plants grow tall and leggy is due to a lack of sunshine.

The vast majority of the species of kalanchoe that are cultivated as houseplants require full sun (at least 6 hours).

Kalanchoes naturally grow in open areas and prefer not to compete with other plants for sunlight in their native habitat in Madagascar.

Kalanchoe needs full sunlight to remain compact and to promote flowering. Otherwise, they end up straggly like my friends plant in the photo.

If they do not have enough light the stems grow taller and taller with a leggy appearance ad the kalanchoe searches for more light, typically with more growth on top and sparse growth lower down with fewer leaves.

If your kalanchoe is not on a sunny window sill, then I can assure you this is the reason it is growing tall and leggy.

How to Save it…

To revive a leggy kalanchoe, it is simply a case of pruning it back and locating the plant in full sun.

In my experience, bright indirect is usually not enough to prevent Kalanchoe from turning leggy, so I urge you to find a sunny window sill.

If you do not have space on a sunny window sill, then you can also use an LED grow light (available online) to provide more light which should help to keep the kalanchoe a more compact size and help to promote flowering.

Personally, my LED growth lights are especially useful for preventing leggy stems when I live in a Northerly latitude and I do not get much light in Winter.

Prune the kalanchoe back to a desirable size and shape. The best time of year to prune is in the Spring, as this is when the kalanchoe is at its most resilient, but you can successfully prune in the Summer as well.

I find Kalanchoes are more hardy than people think when it comes to pruning and you can prune them back quite hard without problems, even near to the base of the plant.

Use a sterilized pair of pruners to cut just above the node, as this is where the new growth will emerge.

Do not worry if the kalanchoe oozes slightly after pruning (I know this can look concerning!), as this is normal, and the pruned end should be callous as it dries. Kalanchoe plants can actually photosynthesize using their green stems, so you can cut it back even if there are no leaves left.

For a great visual guide, watch this YouTube video for how to prune a leggy kalanchoe:

Why are My Kalanchoe Stems Drooping?

  • Symptoms. Drooping, weak looking stems.
  • Causes. Not enough light, overwatering, underwatering.

The first sign of a kalanchoe, being deprived of light, is a leggy appearance. Eventually, the stems grow longer and weaker as a result of not enough light, which causes them to droop or flop over.

I must emphasize it is important to locate your kalanchoe in a bright sunny spot with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.

This helps to keep the kalanchoe an appropriate size with a bushier appearance and promotes flowering.

However, your kalanchoe could still be drooping if the kalanchoe is underwatered, overwatered, or if the soil retains moisture for too long.

Overwatering and damp soils tend to be the more prevalent issue as kalanchoe are succulent plants that have adapted to survive in environments in hot, dry, sunny climates with relatively low rainfall, growing in gritty, aerated, porous well-draining soil.

If the kalanchoe’s potting soil is damp for too long (due to either overwatering or soils that retain moisture for too long), then this exudes oxygen from around the kalanchoe roots, which prevents root respiration, which prevents the kalanchoe’s roots from uptaking moisture and nutrients causes the kalanchoe to droop.

Underwatering has a similar effect. Whilst kalanchoe do not need watering as often as most houseplants, your kalanchoe always needs a generous soak so that the potting soil is evenly moist after watering.

If you water too lightly, then only the top inch or so of the potting medium is moist, and the water does not infiltrate to reach the kalanchoe’s roots where it is required.

There can sometimes be an issue with kalanchoe plants that are planted in peat moss potting soils. As kalanchoe are succulents and have a preference for dryer conditions, it is important to let the soil dry somewhat between watering.

However, peat soils can turn hydrophobic when they dry out completely, which means that water trickles off the surface of the soil and down the side of the pot without infiltrating properly and reaching the roots. This causes drought stress and results in drooping kalanchoe branches.

How to Save it…

In order to revive your drooping kalanchoe, it is important to identify the cause of its wilting appearance.

If the kalanchoe is leggy and drooping and you suspect the cause is a lack of sunlight, then follow the instructions at the start of the article pertaining to leggy kalanchoe, as the steps are the same.

I would recommend propagating a cutting from your kalanchoe as they propagate easily, so you can have several kalanchoe plants growing that are capable of flowering. (Who doesn’t love free houseplants?)

If the drooping kalanchoe soil is damp, then follow these tips:

  • Reduce how often you water the kalanchoe. It is important to acknowledge there is no universal schedule for watering kalanchoe as it can depend on many factors such as the size of the pot, temperature, humidity, the type of potting medium, the time of year, etc. Kalanchoe should only be watered when the soil has almost dried out completely.

To establish the optimal water schedule (to meet the Kalanchoe’s requirements whilst avoiding overwatering), it is important to determine when the soil is almost dry.

The best way I have found to do this is to push a wooden skewer into the potting soil all the way to the bottom to see if the soil still clings onto the skewer, which indicates the soil is still damp.

Use a skewer to assess whether your succulent needs watering.
A wooden skewer is my favorite way to assess the soil’s moisture.

You can also pick up the Kalanchoe’s pot periodically after watering to judge the weight and assess when the soil is drying out (as it should feel much lighter as it dries.

  • It is important to acknowledge kalanchoe plants should be watered less often in Winter (whilst the plant is dormant) compared to Spring and Summer (when the kalanchoe is in active growth). The soil dries out slower during Winter, partly due to cooler temperatures but mostly because the kalanchoe’s roots are not drawing up water at the same rate as in the Summer; therefore, the soil can remain damp for longer. Reduce the frequency of watering to compensate for the kalanchoe’s reduced demand for water in Winter to prevent the plant from drooping.
  • If your kalanchoe is planted in regular potting soil, I would recommend repotting it into amended well-draining soil in the Spring or Summer. Reduce watering for now and wait until Spring to repot, as houseplants are far more resilient to the stress of repotting in the Spring. I personally use succulent and cacti soil for kalanchoe as it has the optimal well-draining aerated soil structure, which replicates the typical soil characteristics of its natural habitat.
A gritty Succulents and cacti soil mix is ideal for growing kalanchoe plants.
A gritty Succulents and cacti soil mix is ideal for growing kalanchoe plants.
  • Plant kalanchoe in pots with drainage holes in the base and empty any saucers, trays, or decorative outer pots of excess water regularly. Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot and drooping foliage.

Once you have adjusted your watering schedule so that the soil dries out more between each bout of watering and planted the kalanchoe in succulent and cacti soil and the kalanchoe is in full sun, then it should recover from its drooping appearance.

If you scratch back the surface of the kalanchoe’s potting soil and it is bone dry, then it is possible the cause for the drooping appearance is that the soil is repelling moisture. In which case…

  • Place the Kalanchoe in a basin of water for around 10 minutes, ensuring that the root ball is submerged. If you submerge the root ball, then the potting medium can properly absorb the moisture so that water can reach the roots and alleviate the drought stress.
  • Always water kalanchoe with a generous soak to the extent that excess water trickles from the base of the pot. The goal with watering is always to ensure that the potting medium is evenly moist throughout so that the roots can up-take the moisture it needs. Once you water the soil with a regular schedule, it is unlikely to turn hydrophobic again.

When your kalanchoe recovers from its drooping appearance, I recommend repotting it into succulent and cacti soil as this retains an open, porous stricture that allows for excellent infiltration even when it has dried out completely.

Overwatering Causes Kalanchoe Leaves to Turn Yellow and the Stems to Turn Back

  • Symptoms: Yellowing leaves with sparse growth or the stems turn black and squishy.
  • Causes: The soil is too damp, which can cause rot. Lack of light is a contributing factor.

Yellowing kalanchoe leaves are most often because the plant does not have enough light and it is overwatered.

It is important to emphasize that kalanchoe need full sun and can turn leggy with yellowing leaves if it is in too much shade, so find a sunny-facing window for your kalanchoe.

The soil may also be too damp from damp soil due to overwatering, moisture-retentive soil, or pots without drainage holes in the base.

Sometimes I have personally noticed that some varieties of kalanchoe turn yellow and a bit worse for wear after flowering. Kalanchoe needs a ‘rest after flowering’ in order to re-bloom (for more information on stimulating more flowers read this guide).

If this happens to your kalanchoe then I can assure you this is just part of the plants cycle and it is not any thing for you to worry about.

If the kalanchoe stems are turning black with a soft squishy texture then I’m afraid this indicates stem rot which is caused by a combination of overwatering with cold temperatures.

How to Save it…

The first thing you need to do is to follow the steps detailed above relating to a drooping overwatered kalanchoe as the treatment of watering less frequently and repotting the kalanchoe in well-draining soil are the same.

Relocate your kalanchoe to a nice sunny spot and I would consider using an indoor grow light if you do not have a south-facing window sill to supplement the light.

These steps can be enough to help to revive a kalanchoe with yellow leaves, however, if the stems are turning black then more drastic action is necessary.

It is imperative to cut away any black squishy stems with a sharp pair of pruners to prevent the rot from spreading.

You need to Use a cloth soaked in disinfectant to wipe the blades of the pruners before each snip to prevent spreading fungal pathogens from diseased stems to otherwise healthy sections of stems.

Re-pot your kalanchoe in succulent and cacti soil, ideally in an unglazed clay or terracotta pot (rather than plastic pots) as clay and terracotta are porous which allows the potting medium to dry out more evenly between each bout of watering. (I have had the most success growing succulents in my favorite Clay and terracotta pots).

Ensure that the pot is roughly the same size as Kalanchoe’s previous pot. If the pot is too large then it is likely to retain too much moisture for the kalanchoe to tolerate.

If you repot the kalanchoe and scale back the watering (so that you only water when the potting medium is mostly dry) then the kalanchoe can recover from its stem rot.

However, I have seen that the survival of the plant depends on the extent of the stem rot and personally Iwould hedge my bets by taking cuttings from any healthy remaining stems for propagation as the original plant can often die.

Propagation of kalanchoe plants is very easy and it may be the only way to save your dying plant. Watch the YouTube further up the article for a really good visual guide to propagation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kalanchoe stems grow leggy and often droop downwards if they do not have enough sunlight. Kalanchoe needs full sun all day to promote flowering and to stay a nice compact size.
  • Kalanchoe are drought-tolerant plants that suffer in consistently damp, boggy soil. Black and squishy kalanchoe stems indicate that the soil is too damp and the temperature is too cold.
  • Yellowing leaves are usually as a result of overwatering and a lack of sunlight.
  • To revive a dying kalanchoe repot it into succulent and cacti soil and only water when the soil is almost completely dry. Prune back any black, mushy stems and place your kalanchoe in a sunny South facing window sill.

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