Mother Of Thousands: A Self-Sowing Succulent

Ed Wike
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Quick Care Guide

A Mother Of Thousands is sometimes referred to as Kalanchoe daigremontiana. With a common name like Mother of Thousands you know that it is full of surprises! Indeed, this succulent produces thousands of little baby babies from the mother plant.

The mother plants grow 6-12 inches tall and have heart shaped succulent leaves. The baby plants are only 1/8-1/2 inch tall and look like tiny green shrimp. When you crush the baby plant it makes a little popping sound from the tiny root. The mother plants live for years producing babies.

What Is It?

The Mother of Thousands is native to Madagascar, a country off the southeastern coast of Africa. It was first discovered in the area of its name 'Kalanchoe' which is a city that is now in South Africa.

The areas the plant grows are warm and sunny and the plant needs a lot of water. Even though it's native to Africa, it actually does better in the American Southwest. The heat and low humidity of the area makes it happy.

The flowers are pinkish-purple, very pretty, and fragrant. The blooms emerge over a long period of time. However, they can be somewhat boring.

Growing Conditions

Light: Full sun

All About the Mother Of Thousands

For a fun and different kind of gardening project, try growing a Mother of Thousands.

While it may not bear literal children for you, it sure has a lot of babies. M.O.T. is a succulent that grows many small plantlets on its leaves and roots, which fall off and eventually grow on their own.

The plant is called the Mother of Thousands because its plantlets can grow as much as an inch long!

A real M.O.T. plant can easily produce thousands of new plants.

Now, with that many babies, you might think this succulent would be hard to care for. But in reality, the M.O.T. is one of the easiest succulents to grow.

These are the low-maintenance requirements of the M.O.T.:

Light: Bright light, but no direct sunlight.

Water: Allow soil to dry out completely before watering again.

Fertilizer: Use a weak, high-phosphorus liquid or time-released fertilizer during the growing season.

Propagation: To propagate the M.O.T., clip off some of the plantlets with a pair of scissors, and put them in a small pot of soil.

Mother Of Thousands Care

Light & Temperature

The mother of thousands succulent thrives best in full sun. Leave it in its original pot and give it lots of room to grow. Large containers make sense in the first few years of its life during which it can spread out.

As it becomes established and becomes accustomed to the indoor climate, it will stop readily reproducing so you can keep it in a smaller container. While it's still young, let it get some sun anytime the weather is warm.

During the winter months, place it near bright window. You can also put it under fluorescent shade for part of the day and provide it with sunlight for the remaining part.

The mother of thousands can withstand soil temperatures as low as 15 degrees C. Keep it away from drafts, however, and avoid keeping it in the bedrooms or other rooms in which the temperature drops below 15 degrees. A heat pad or ceramic heating element can help keep it warmer in the winter.

Water & Humidity

The Mother of Thousands thrives in damp, hot conditions with average soil that drains well. It tolerates drier conditions, but the leaves will become stiff and gray if they do not receive enough moisture. Be sure to provide adequate humidity for the plant.

It is not necessary for the soil to be kept constantly supplied with water. However, the soil should be kept moist during the growing season. The trick is to make sure that the water drains well. If not, root rot might be a possibility.

However, it is important to remember that there needs to be a level of dryness between waterings. Do not keep the soil excessively wet. To encourage the plant to procreate, water the plant until water drains out the bottom of the pot. This can be done about once or twice a month. Make sure to empty the saucer under the plant to prevent the collection of water.

Mothers of Thousands thrives in a sunny window. If your growing season is generally hot and dry, you can bring your succulent indoors.

The plant does not require direct sunlight to do well. In fact, the plant can be placed in a shady spot provided that the soil is kept moist. If you live in an area with consistent light, you will notice small white flowers that will eventually produce thousands of seeds.

Soil

Mother of Thousands plants are a type of Sedum. S. ericoides (the species name), in particular, goes by a few common names: New Zealand Stonecrop, Father of Thousands, Thousand Tongues, Mexican Fire Plant, Rabbit’s Foot, Dog’s Tooth Violet, Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate, and, of course, Mother of Thousands. The “mother” Sedum can produce up to four generations of babies every year and continues growing year after year. It is a succulent that grows in abundance because it is hardy, drought resistant, and pest resistant. It produces small white and green flowers that most people think are insignificant.

Thousand-Tongues Sedum gives you two options for planting: either in the ground or in a container. If you plant directly in the ground, you will need to provide full sun and well-drained soil.

Fertilizer

Normal garden fertilizer should be avoided. Otherwise, over time the plant will build up an excess of nutrients and has no way of getting rid of them.

A cactus/succulent fertilizer or an orchid formula fertilizer can be used with caution, but again, use caution not to overfeed the plant.

If you are in need of a fertilizer, try a time-release or organic-based fertilizer.

Using a time-release product will ensure that the plant is not overfed.

Using an organic product will provide food for the plant that is rich in nutrients and will also ensure that the potting mix is not depleted of important nutrients.

Propagation

It’s also best to only wait until fall if you’re looking to propagate these houseplants. Mother of Thousands (and other succulents) can be propagated through stem cuttings, also known as “offsets.” To get started, look for a plant with offsets already growing on it. Then carefully break off the mother plant.

Mother of Thousands can be propagated using the same methods that African Violet growers use. You can cut the stems into 5mm-7mm lengths, then plant in a mixture of sand, perlite, vermiculite, and (if you have it) peat moss. Soak with a water to medium ratio of 1:2 for 24 hours, and then allow the water to drain out.

Once the water has drained, "cable tie" the cuttings to the top of the container. Leave the container in a warm, partially-shaded location and keep the soil moist.

Repotting

But for some gardeners, especially those with desert gardens, Mother of Thousands is not a passing fancy but a prized resident. These gardeners are continually amazed when new baby plants form just weeks after their last repotting.

How exactly is this possible?

Mother of Thousands is one of several self-sowing succulents that are named for their incredible growth and procreation capabilities. It is completely normal for mother of thousands to grow a multitude of baby plants from its leaves. These plants die after 8-10 weeks but in that short time they can produce hundreds of small succulent plants. Each succulent plant has several potential sites where new babies can start.

Plants only become overgrown when it is not properly pruned back and the amount of baby plants inevitably outweigh the adult plant parent.

To properly maintain a mother of thousands, you must prune all of the baby plants off of the parent plant. This will allow the parent plant to produce even more baby plants. Even though this means you are trimming back a lot of baby plants, you'll still be left with an abundance of succulent plants and be pleasantly surprised to see the parent producing even more baby plants than ever before.

Pruning

Succulents in general, make more sense to me in this day and age then they did in the past. Before, they just seemed like a more difficult to care for variation of a pretty conventional flower. Now, my appreciation of them has grown in light of the thought that if you can grow a succulent on your own, you are basically a modern day hunter-gatherer. That little plant is a testament to your survival skills!

Needless to say, I've found myself falling in love with the plant community more than ever before. Although tradition roses will always have a special place in my heart (especially if they're yellow ), the gloriousness of succulents has tipped the scales towards them being my favorite plant category. One of my personal favorites is the Mother of Thousands.

Which Is a Succulent/Wildflower Hybrid

Unlike many of the other succulents you're going to encounter, Mother of Thousands not only comes in a variety of colors, it tends to put on more of an extravaganza rather than just one or two flowers here and there. The 'mother' component of the plant's name has a lot to do with the way the plant reproduces.

Troubleshooting

Mother of thousands is a good plant for aquariums. Left alone, at some point, they may become too large for their tuber-holding container. If that happens, transplanting to a larger pot is your only option. As always when transplanting, and to encourage new growth, a water change of about 25% is recommended.

If your mother of thousands is browning, more than likely the cause is a nitrogen deficiency. Look for a fertilizer with high levels of potassium and low levels of nitrogen. You can also treat the browning with potassium supplements and/or potassium-rich fertilizer.

If your mother of thousands seems to have stopped growing, check the water parameters. Mother of thousands at times will stop growing when the Nitrogen/Phosphorus ratio is off or when calcium hardness drops below 400 ppm. There is likely a lack of magnesium or iron or the growth stage of the plant has changed and new leaves do not develop.

Growing Problems

Unfortunately Mother of Thousands has root problems, even with a self-sowing succulent. It likes to be pot bound. That means when it’s in the container too long it will send up a shoot and put on many babies, but starts to grow roots down the drain in your sink. That causes problems. So for details on the pot-bound problem, visit the Tips, Tricks, and Advice section of the Mother of Thousands article.

Don’t expect the plant to grow and produce babies for you quickly.

Though Mother of Thousands can grow quickly, it’s still generally a slow grower for most of us. It likes very bright light, humid conditions, and warm temps. Some species will flower indoors, but most members of this family don’t bloom. Some don’t flower until they’ve been outdoors in a cool climate.

Pests

Mother of Thousands is a bizarre little succulent with turquoise flesh and large, spiny leaves. Despite its appearance, it is more closely related to turmeric than tarragon. Native to northern Africa and southern Europe, the plant is sometimes grown indoors as a novelty.

Common names for the plant include "alligator plant," "devil's tongue," and "mother of thousands." Appropriate, since all three names reference another creepy mother from Greek mythology, Sisyphus, punished for telling secrets of the gods.

The plant grows new plants via its leaves. If you break off a piece of a mature plant, roots and all, the piece will begin to grow a new plant.

While the plant can grow indoors, it has a surprising voracious appetite for light and can require supplemental light.

The plant can grow anywhere from 24" to 48" in height, and should be repotted with fresh soil around once a year. Repotting can be done from spring to autumn, but should be done in stages, as the plant can quickly become root-bound.

If you're looking for a unique centerpiece for your home, the plant has a bold nature even for succulents. The plant will certainly be noticed when you're in the room.

Diseases

Unfortunately, succulents are subject to many diseases that leafy houseplants aren’t.

One reason is that succulents generally breathe through their leaves instead of their roots.

This means that their leaves are subject to more airborne germs and contaminants.

Plus, succulents grow fast. This means that lawn crud that is no good for them, can grow quickly to harm them.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you propagate Mother of Thousands?

Cut off the pups and scrape the whitish resin off the pups’ bottoms (the “feet”) with a sharp knife or a razor blade. Save the pups and let them dry. Keep them in a dry area until they sprout roots and then plant them after they have been rooted in pots or trays.

How can I keep plants from falling out of my hanging planters?

Just make sure the planters are securely anchored. Plants do fall out of hanging planters, sometimes with a loud crash. This is normal. Simply prop the pot back up as quickly as possible. Make sure the planter is on the edge of the sink or tub so you can prop it up without spilling.

Why don’t my new pups form that solid stem with the white underside?

Many of the pups, from the new growth, do not yet have a solid stem; however, they are still viable plants.

How do I know when the baby in the pot is ready to be separated from the mother?