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Home > Plant Care Guide > Species

Donkey ears (Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri) Care Guide

Succulent plants are so popular with people for its low maintenance cost and different but interesting shape. They can be planted in window sills as potted plant or placed on office table as house plant to decorate the environment. They can also be planted in drainable and ventilated corners of courtyard as undershrub to form a unique tropical landscape. They don't need much care, therefore being a perfect choice for busy people.

Quick Care Guides

  • How much sunlight is needed to grow donkey ears?
  • What kind of soil needs to be prepared for planting it?
  • Can I grow donkey ears in my garden?
  • Useful tips for watering donkey ears.
  • What to do if my donkey ears harmed by pests?

Condition Requirement

Water and Hardiness

The suitable growth temperature of donkey ears is above 15 ℃, and it can grow normally in spring, summer and autumn. It can tolerate high temperature, but it will enter the dormancy period when the temperature is higher than 33 ℃ (Sedum lineare is a special species that still grows well under high temperature in summer.). When the temperature is lower than 5 ℃ in winter, it is recommended to move donkey ears indoor to avoid irreversible frostbite or even death.
If you are in a cold region, it is not recommended to plant it directly in the garden, but as a potted plant. When it enters its dormancy, it needs less watering; during its growing season, a small amount of water is needed.

Sunlight

Generally speaking, donkey ears needs sufficient scattered light which should be bright and transparent. If there is not sufficient sunlight for a long time, the plant will be spindling, the tissue will become brittle, and the original color will fade slowly, as a result, the plant will grow into a loose shape, the color will turn green and yellow, and the resistance will decline.
Strong sunlight in summer may burn its leaves and stems. When exposed to the sun, it tends to grow slowly or even stop growing, its leaves grow compactly and internodes shorten, which results in shorter plant. For some succulent plants, their old leaves wither in summer and new leaves tend to be short and compact, showing a bare rod shape as a whole. In summer, you can set up a sunshade for it or move the potted plant indoor.

Soil

Soil is very important for the growth of donkey ears, which must be loose and ventilated. Generally speaking, the soil is divided into three layers from top to bottom, namely, the top deco layer, the middle planting layer, and the lower hydrophobic layer, which requires different types of soils.
The top deco soil is paved on the soil surface for the decoration and fixation of plants. Some can prevent diseases and insect pests. When it's completely dry, it's time to water. There are many types of soil that can be used as top deco soil, such as white pebble, akadama soil, kiryuu sands, kanuma soil, etc. You can select proper ones according to different pots and plants.
The middle layer soil can fix plants and provide nutrients for plants to grow. You can buy the configured succulent planting soil directly in store, or buy soil materials to mix by yourself. The common soil formulation for this layer is peat moss : perlite : volcanic rock : vermiculite = 4:2:2:2.
The soil of the lower hydrophobic layer is placed at the bottom of the flowerpot or garden pit. It can evacuate the excess water in the succulent root system and prevent the root system from rotting due to water accumulation. The hydrophobic layer can be made of ceramsite, volcanic stone or other large-scale culture media. Coal slag or charcoal are also good choices. If it is planted in the garden, it is necessary to make sure that the bottom drainage layer is in good water permeability.

Care Guide

Planting

When planting, you can first add the soil of the lower hydrophobic layer to the flowerpot, and then add a small amount of soil of the planting layer. Then spread out the root system of the plant and put them in. Cover the plant root with planting soil slowly, then add the top deco soil, and finally pour water once. If it is planted in the garden, you need to dig a pit 1.5-2 times the size of the root system first, and then follow the above steps.
In order to make it grow better and faster, or if the roots are too dense or unhealthy, it needs to be repotted. It is recommended to repot in spring and autumn. Before repotting, stop watering a few days in advance, after the soil is dried, you can gently knock the pot outside. Or you can use a knife to separate the soil from the pot. When pulling the plant up slightly, you can easily take out the plant, and then follow the steps described in the previous paragraph.
It should be noted that, though you can plant different colors of succulent plants together, it is better to avoid planting succulent plants with different growth habits together. Some succulent plant growing in summer needs water, while other succulent plant in dormancy period does not need water. If they are planted together, the succulent plant in dormancy period will become sick due to excessive watering, while the succulent in growing period will wither due to insufficient water.

Water

Donkey ears doesn't need much water. For many novices, the most difficult problem is how to water. In fact, it is not recommended to water at a fixed time, but more attention should be paid to the state of succulent plant and specific weather conditions. You can learn how to water the succulent plant correctly from the following five aspects.
A. Weather: in hot weather or low temperature, succulent plant will enter dormancy. In such period, watering should be reduced a little, usually once 1-2 weeks. Since the growth of succulent plant is basically stagnant when it is in dormancy, its absorption of water and nutrients is quite slow. At the same time, it is necessary to keep the environment dry and ventilated. Frequent watering can cause succulent plant to die due to black rot.
B. Time: in summer, it is better to water in the evening to avoid the sun at noon, because high temperature will make the newly watered soil stuffy which makes the root system prone to black rot; it does not matter in other seasons.
C. State of succulent plant: succulent plant will show some obvious symptoms when it is lack of water. For example, healthy leaves of Astridia velutina or Lithops sp. will wrinkle and even curl up when they are short of water. For some succulent varieties, such as Monilaria obconica and Phyllobolus resurgens, their leaves will droop and slouch when they are short of water. That's the signal of water shortage sent by the succulent plant.
D. Soil: you can also determine whether to water by observing the moisture change of the soil. For potted succulent plants, you can weigh the pot in your hand to simply judge the amount of water left in the soil, because the weight of the soil is quite different when there's sufficient water or insufficient water. In addition, if there's a gap between the outer edge of the soil and the inner edge of the pot, or the soil surface cracks, that is also a sign of water shortage.
E. Pot: for pots with good air permeability such as red pot, which is not easy to keep water, so the watering frequency can be higher; for white porcelain pot or pot without holes, the watering frequency can be lower.

Fertilizer

Most succulent plants are used to growing in the wild where the environment is poor, so they do not need fertilization in their growth cycle. You can add a little slow-release fertilizer in early summer, and it's fine if you do not apply fertilizer. Please remember, don't fertilize it during its dormancy period, because too much nutrients that it can't absorb may cause damages to its growth.

Pruning

In order to keep beautiful shape, some large succulent plants may need pruning. For example, in California, for echeveria planted in the garden, some redundant branches and branches that are too dense need to be cut off in spring and autumn. this depends on what you think and what the succulent plant is used for. Tools for pruning mainly include knife, scissors, and some medicines (such as sulfur powder).
In order to propagate new plants, we can also cut some leaves in spring and autumn for cutting. Stout stems with 5-6 leaves are often selected: cut it off with a knife, then smear the wound with sulfur powder, and plant it after the wound is healed. At this time, it is recommended to use a watering can to slightly wet the soil used for cutting.

Propagation

There are many ways of propagation of succulent plants; seeds can be collected for sowing, but they are difficult to germinate. It is more common to use leaves for cutting propagation, generally in spring and autumn. Select a whole leave of a healthy plant, cut it off with a knife, and lay it flat on the slightly humid soil, with the leaf base close to the soil. Provide it with suitable temperature (25 ℃) and light (bright scattered light). In a week or two, a bud will grow at the leaf base.

Seasonal Precautions

In summer, there are several ways to ensure ventilation:
  1. use loose soil;
  2. use a ceramic pot with good air permeability;
  3. keep the potted plants in a multi-ventilated environment.
In summer, it is necessary to avoid too strong light: for potted plant, it can be moved to a proper place, and if planted outdoors, it can be provided with a shading net. In addition, it is necessary to avoid direct sunlight after watering as this will burn the leaves.
In high temperature, varieties with thick leaves need to reduce water supply earlier, because they have high water content in their leaves and are easy to hydrate under high temperature. Of course, they can't get wet. Reducing water supply can make plants enter dormancy state smoothly and avoid being hurt by high temperature in summer.

Common Problems

Why do its leaves turn yellow and withered?

It's a natural phenomenon that its old leaves turn yellow and wither. Don't be panic. If new buds turn yellow and withered, it is abnormal. It may be caused by lack of some mineral fertilizer or by sunburn.

Why do its leaves wrinkle?

It's generally due to water shortage. When the succulent is lack of water, there will be wrinkles on leaves, or leaves will be shriveled, which reminds you to water them.

Why does it have a very high stem but few leaves?

It is mostly due to the lack of sufficient light, which is the same principle as the growth of common mung bean sprout in Asian market. Lack of light can lead to spindling of plant internode and vulnerableness of plant tissue, which makes the plant prone to be injured. If you're in a similar situation, place the succulent in a well-lit area, and then the situation will slowly improve over time.

Pests and Diseases

In high temperature and humid environment, bacteria are easy to grow in the soil, which will make the succulent plant infected with fatal black rot, sooty mold, powdery mildew, etc. Therefore, it is recommended to sterilize the succulent plant one month before summer. Generally, carbendazim mixed with water in the proportion of 1:1000 is selected and evenly sprayed on ground parts of succulent plants, such as leaves and stems.
The underground part can be treated by root filling method. You can submerge the flowerpot planted with succulent plant in sterilization liquid and wait for the soil to slowly absorb the liquid. It is recommended to apply carbendazim once two weeks, totally twice. For succulent planted in the garden, it's easy to spray sterilization liquid directly or use a small amount of sterilization liquid to irrigate the soil.
In summer, once initial symptoms of disease are found on succulent, the succulent needs to be isolated. Cut off the diseased part and smear the wound with sulfur powder or carbendazim to avoid secondary infection. Then spray the whole plant with carbendazim mixed with water. If it is found too late that the whole plant is already black and rotten and the leaves are transparent, it may be difficult to survive the succulent, and you'd better remove it.
Pest is also a major problem in the maintenance of succulent plant. When purchasing succulent plant and soil, you'd better check and confirm that they do not carry any pests. Common pests include aphids, scale insects, spider mites, white butterflies, etc. Pests tend to break out in summer, but the situation is generally manageable, so it is not necessary to be nervous when finding pests.
Once pests are found, if only a small amount, they can be picked out and killed, or washed with water. If there are large outbreaks and pests are hiding in hard-to-reach areas such as leaf crevices, it is recommended to buy and apply insecticide for succulent plant.
Imidacloprid and avermectin are both effective. Please follow instructions on the package when using them and ensure the concentration is appropriate. If the concentration is too high, the succulent will be easily killed. Insecticide should be sprayed carefully on pest-infected parts, and other parts without pests should also be sprayed as a precaution.
Generally, it is better to apply insecticide in the evening in ventilated environment. The frequency of application is once 2 weeks. If there is no obvious pest recurrence after the first application, it is not necessary to apply the insecticide frequently. But if pests tactfully hide in the soil, please don't be panic, cause you can change the soil.
When changing the soil, you should carefully separate the root system, remove the soil with pests, and then replace it with new soil. If you don't want to change the soil, then you need to immerse the bottom of the flowerpot in liquid insecticide for about 1 to 2 minutes, wait until the soil absorbs enough insecticide through holes at the bottom of the flowerpot, and then take out the flowerpot.
You may also notice that where the scale insects gather, there will often be a large group of ants. Ants and scale insects are in a mutually beneficial relationship: ants feed on nectar secreted by scale insects and help scale insects move to other plants. this may explain why the outbreak of scale insects is so widespread and so fast. Therefore, it is necessary to exterminate ants near the outbreak site.

Pests and Diseases

In high temperature and humid environment, bacteria are easy to grow in the soil, which will make the succulent plant infected with fatal black rot, sooty mold, powdery mildew, etc. Therefore, it is recommended to sterilize the succulent plant one month before summer. Generally, carbendazim mixed with water in the proportion of 1:1000 is selected and evenly sprayed on ground parts of succulent plants, such as leaves and stems.
The underground part can be treated by root filling method. You can submerge the flowerpot planted with succulent plant in sterilization liquid and wait for the soil to slowly absorb the liquid. It is recommended to apply carbendazim once two weeks, totally twice. For succulent planted in the garden, it's easy to spray sterilization liquid directly or use a small amount of sterilization liquid to irrigate the soil.
In summer, once initial symptoms of disease are found on succulent, the succulent needs to be isolated. Cut off the diseased part and smear the wound with sulfur powder or carbendazim to avoid secondary infection. Then spray the whole plant with carbendazim mixed with water. If it is found too late that the whole plant is already black and rotten and the leaves are transparent, it may be difficult to survive the succulent, and you'd better remove it.
Pest is also a major problem in the maintenance of succulent plant. When purchasing succulent plant and soil, you'd better check and confirm that they do not carry any pests. Common pests include aphids, scale insects, spider mites, white butterflies, etc. Pests tend to break out in summer, but the situation is generally manageable, so it is not necessary to be nervous when finding pests.
Once pests are found, if only a small amount, they can be picked out and killed, or washed with water. If there are large outbreaks and pests are hiding in hard-to-reach areas such as leaf crevices, it is recommended to buy and apply insecticide for succulent plant.
Imidacloprid and avermectin are both effective. Please follow instructions on the package when using them and ensure the concentration is appropriate. If the concentration is too high, the succulent will be easily killed. Insecticide should be sprayed carefully on pest-infected parts, and other parts without pests should also be sprayed as a precaution.
Generally, it is better to apply insecticide in the evening in ventilated environment. The frequency of application is once 2 weeks. If there is no obvious pest recurrence after the first application, it is not necessary to apply the insecticide frequently. But if pests tactfully hide in the soil, please don't be panic, cause you can change the soil.
When changing the soil, you should carefully separate the root system, remove the soil with pests, and then replace it with new soil. If you don't want to change the soil, then you need to immerse the bottom of the flowerpot in liquid insecticide for about 1 to 2 minutes, wait until the soil absorbs enough insecticide through holes at the bottom of the flowerpot, and then take out the flowerpot.
You may also notice that where the scale insects gather, there will often be a large group of ants. Ants and scale insects are in a mutually beneficial relationship: ants feed on nectar secreted by scale insects and help scale insects move to other plants. this may explain why the outbreak of scale insects is so widespread and so fast. Therefore, it is necessary to exterminate ants near the outbreak site.

Black Rot

Black rot is the most lethal disease for succulent plants. At the beginning, a part of the plant becomes black and rotten, then leaves fall off when touched, and at last, the whole plant turns black and rotten. It happens when the soil is not well drained and excessively wet, and it is most likely to happen in summer when the weather is sultry. The treatment is the same as mentioned above.

Other Uncommon Pests or Diseases

Moreover, there are some less common pests and diseases listed below that need your attention
  • Sooty Mold
  • Aphids
  • Scale insects
  • Spider mites
  • White butterflies
Donkey ears (Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri) Donkey ears (Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri)
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