One of the most attractive species you can grow at home is the Mother of Thousands plant. Being a succulent and boasting the most beautiful leaves, you can expect it to grab anyone’s attention at first sight.
It is not a difficult plant to grow or care for, though. If you’re looking for a uniquely gorgeous plant to improve your garden, you’ll love this one.
But considering how attractive it is, you can also expect it to require specific care for sustained growth. Here, we are going to teach you how to ensure that.
Below, we explain everything to know if you want to grow one at home and care for it in the short and long term. Interested to learn this? Take a peek then!
What Does the Mother of Thousands Mean?
Even though the popular name is Mother of Thousands, it is scientifically called the Kalanchoe Daigremontiana. As it belongs to the Kalanchoe family, a type of succulent that only grows in East Africa and Madagascar and has over 140 known sub-species.
You may still find this plant by many other names. Some of them are the Mexican Hat Plant, the Devil’s Backbone, and the Alligator Plant. Alongside the Mother of Thousands, all these names refer to the unique appearance of the plantlets that grow on its leaves.
These plantlets or small flower-like leaves grow all along the primary blue-green leaves edges. They fall off the leaves over time, looking for a place to root. Thus, the name “Mother of Thousands” because it’s always trying to grow babies around.
Considering the plant is always trying to make roots for its babies, it is not rare to hear gardeners and experienced plant people say this is a problematic plant. But in the right space, this plant thrives without any side effects.
As for its size and growth, you can expect it to reach a maximum of 35 to 40 inches (3 or so feet). And the leaves often don’t grow longer than 6 inches and 3 inches wide. Overall, it is an excellent decorative plant to add to your garden.
Are Mother of Thousands Plants Poisonous?
The short answer is yes. This plant is sadly poisonous, not only to humans but also to all other animals. And it is not mildly poisonous. It can actually be life-threatening to children and pets, so it is responsible to avoid this plant if you live with those at home.
Otherwise, it is recommended to place it out of reach. It is always worth placing in an unreachable place like high windows or hanging from the ceiling.
For adults, the plant can cause mild effects like stomach aches and skin rashes. In the worst scenarios, it may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and even heart issues.
All this poison comes from the glycosides in the composition of the plant. These glycosides can affect the heart directly, sometimes causing dangerous symptoms.
The most poisonous part of the Mother of Thousands is the blossom. While it is rare when this plant produces flowers, these flowers are the most toxic and dangerous. Similarly, the plant has more glycosides in its blossoming period.
What Does a Mother of Thousands Need to Grow?
With a better idea of what the Mother of Thousands plant offers, let’s take a deeper look into what it needs to thrive. Bel ow, we explain the most critical factors for that:
Space & Pot
Although the Mexican Hat plant doesn’t generally grow past 3 feet in height, it is still worth planting it on a decently large pot or garden. This is considering the leaves can reach up to 10 inches long in the best-case scenario.
Another factor to consider is how delicate its roots are. These roots require a lot of ventilation and proper moisture, so you need to find a pot that can ensure decently humid but well-drained soil.
Similarly, they aren’t the best space-sharers. If you plant them alongside other plants, they may either grow super-slowly or inhibit the other plants’ growth. More importantly, the plantlets will slowly take over space and kill companions.
For that reason, we heavily advise planting Mother of Thousands in small terracotta pots alone. With proper drainage and 6 to 12 inches of diameter, a terracotta pot will be an excellent idea.
Soil & Fertilizer
As a succulent, the Alligator Plant doesn’t require specifically-made soil to thrive. But it still requires potting soil that drains well but can hold moisture for days.
An excellent option for potting soil would be sandy soil like the one used for cacti. Any cacti mix would do the job well enough for this plant.
When it comes to fertilizing the soil, you won’t need much either. We recommend a mix with perlite, pumice, and vermiculite. In granule form, adding this type of fertilizer consistently can ensure sustained growth.
Apart from that, you should stay away from natural fertilizes like loam, humus, or peat moss that can absorb too much moisture. That’s why we recommend keeping it simple.
Water & Humidity
One huge advantage of growing a Devil’s Backbone plant is the ability to thrive with any humidity. But it generally prefers low humidity, as the roots and leaves are delicate.
For that reason, we recommend only watering the Mother of Thousands once every 4 days. If you live in a dry area where soil loses moisture fast, then you’ll want to water once every 2 days. But if the area is humid (with rain or winter), then watering once a week should be more than enough.
It is worth knowing that you should only water directly on the soil. Try to avoid overwatering the roots or spraying too much water on the leaves, as they may rot.
Light & Air
Like most succulents, the Mother of Thousands thrives with direct sun exposure. It typically needs at least 5 hours of daylight. And it prefers the morning sun from the scorching afternoon rays.
Keep in mind that it can still scorch and burn with too much exposure. This is especially worth considering in hot months. In these months, when the sun can easily cause damage, you may want to place the plant in a more shaded area (with at least 3 hours of exposure a day).
As for air, it thrives in slow-wind places with no problems. Because of that, indoor growing is totally possible with this plant.
Temperature & Environment
Considering it is originally from Madagascar, this plant doesn’t thrive in cold environments.
That’s why you must ensure temperatures of no less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold environments inhibit growth and may cause the leaves to dry out.
At the same time, scorching environments may also damage the plant. Anything over 80 degrees Fahrenheit could also cause problems on the leaves and soil.
Generally, a decently fresh environment indoors is more than enough for this plant. Tropical climates are the best for the Mother of Thousands.
How to Grow Mother of Thousands
Learned what helps this plant thrive? Well, it’s time to put that knowledge into work. Below, we explain all the different steps to take to grow this plant at home.
1. Start in the Ideal Season
While you can plant the plantlets or sprouts at almost any season, we recommend doing it in the spring.
Like most plants, this is the perfect season to promote better growth as the Devil’s Backbone receives the most nutrients from the soil and summer’s sun.
Similarly, the warm temperatures will make it easier for the roots to renew and dock to the soil. In cold winter or fall temperatures, the plant will have a more challenging time getting accustomed to a new place.
2. Prepare the Area
As explained before, this plant grows better on terracotta pots. But you don’t have to get one if you don’t want to. Still, make sure you’re planting it in the right place in your garden bed.
For that, we recommend placing it at least 10 inches away from other plants. If you decided to plant it on a pot, there should be at least 2 inches between the plant and the pot’s sides.
Obviously, if you’re growing in a garden, it’s vital to have proper drainage. The soil should be deeper than 10 inches in that case. Similarly, if you’re growing on a pot, it should have drainage holes to prevent unwanted moisture accumulation.
3. Fix the Plant
If you’re growing from an already grown-up Mother of Thousands or a juvenile sprout, then you should fix it up before planting.
This often means removing broken or dead roots. At the same time, you should trim roots that look rotted, mushy, or darker than the rest.
It is important to remember that the roots are super fragile. If you cut them too deep, you may cause mild to severe damage. For that, only cut the roots if you’re sure they need trimming. Otherwise, plant as is.
4. Place the Plant in Soil
Now the plant is ready to be planted. For that, we recommend opening a small hole in the garden where the plant fits. This hole should be wide enough to cover the entire root adequately. Place the plant inside and then cover with more soil.
On a pot, you should start filling up about one third only. Then place the plant inside and fill up the rest. You should leave it about 1 inch below the soil for better growth. Otherwise, the plant may eventually grow out of the pot.
Either way, you should make sure the soil is tapped down and flat. This is to prevent the plant from dropping to the sides, causing damage to the roots.
5. Water & Wait
With the plant on the soil, you’re ready to water it and leave it to grow. Be aware that, like most succulents, you shouldn’t water too much in the first few months (especially in cold seasons).
As soon as you plant, water about 2 to 3 inches. Then leave the plant to rest for a week without any type of moisture. This should let it adapt to the new soil and thrive over time.
You should start seeing how the plant begins to grow within a few weeks.
How to Care for Mother of Thousands
By now, you should already have the Mexican Hat Plant on your garden bed or pot growing. But how do you ensure it stays that way with no problems? Here are some tips to consider:
Prune Dead Leaves
While Mother of Thousands prunes itself by letting leaves fall, you can always help it out. Use scissors or pruning shears carefully. Cut directly from the start of the leave. Try to prevent any cut on the main stem as it may cause the plant to die.
To know which leaves need pruning, look for brown and yellow tones. Leaves that don’t produce plantlets are also worth pruning away.
It is general advice to not fertilize succulents too much. But it’s still worth doing for some species, like the Mother of Thousands.
You should still do it carefully. While consistently, you should only fertilize every 3 months or so. Use a mild cacti fertilizer mix, and that should be enough. Liquid fertilizer can also get the job done without causing any damage.
Repot When Necessary
In case you planted the Alligator Plant on a small spot, it may eventually grow too large to sustain its growth. When this happens, you will probably need to repot it. Here, you can follow the same process as stated above in the growth guide.
To know whether the plant needs to be repotted, check for roots coming out of the soil. Another common sign is when the leaves start to dry out fast, and the stems are not growing anymore.
Change Place if Necessary
It requires a lot of daily sun exposure to thrive. When it doesn’t receive proper brightness, it will eventually grow brown, spindle away, and grow up large in search of sun rays. The leaves will grow apart as well.
To prevent that, ensure proper sun exposure. When the leaves start to turn brown and grow too long to the sides, that’s a sign you need to place it somewhere else where there’s more sun.
You should now be ready to get that Mother of Thousands plant growing in your garden. It won’t be as easy as you think, but it will undoubtedly be nothing complicated. As long as you follow our advice and recommendations as stated above, you will have little to no trouble making it thrive.
If that’s the case for you, then what are you waiting for? The sooner you start, the faster you’ll enjoy the singular beauty of this magnificent plant. Get your hands dirty now!