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Kalanchoe: Rethinking a Kitschy Houseplant

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Kalanchoe: Rethinking a Kitschy Houseplant

February 19, 2018

Kalanchoe is a common sight at garden centers. With its bright red, yellow, or orange flowers, the blooming succulent is sold as a small greenhouse plant. So I was surprised to see the other day at my local flower market kalanchoes with an entirely different look, with long stems and flowering in gorgeous pastel hues (Millennial pink included).

I couldn’t help but bring some home to arrange in gorgeous vessels by Lisbon-based ceramist Joana Simão. I carefully chose only the flowers that were pale pink and subdued rust colors to use in an arrangement and let them shine on their own, using them as long stems, and minimally, instead of as a filler as they are usually used as a cut flower.

Photography and styling by Chelsea Fuss.

Above: Kalanchoe takes on a new look in pastel hues including pale pink and salmon.

Kalanchoe succulents have a very long vase life (the flowers have been known to last up to four weeks) and offer a long-lasting green leaf along with charming small blossoms. You can even pick the small blossoms off to display in tiny vases as I did here in this oval, textured ceramic vase.

Above: Even the small stems from the florets of kalanchoe make utterly charming little arrangements.

This tiny arrangement adds a sweet touch when displayed in a collection of ceramics as shown, or in addition to a coffee table vignette or bedside table. I’ve displayed two and three stems in the flat, molecular ceramic piece, along with a stem of mimosa greens. A tall bud vase wrapped in string shines brightly with a tall orange kalanchoe blossom.

I love how these modern ceramics elevate kalanchoe, which more often than not is treated more like a grocery store florist’s plant than an accomplice to a chic interior art piece.

Above: You can pair a visually delicate element with kalanchoe to add contrast to the arrangement.

Kalanchoe is practical for at-home arrangements because you don’t need a lot to make an impact. Paired with the right vase, just a few stems can make a statement. As I often tell my flower-arranging students, the art of styling flowers is sometimes more about how you edit it and the initial selection of varieties and colors than the actual mechanics of an arrangement.

Above: It’s all about the containers for these arrangements. Carefully selected, modern ceramics offer what was a very kitschy supermarket plant an entirely new context in which to shine.

Pairing the heavy succulent leaves of kalanchoe with a lighter, feathery green such as mimosa adds a contrast to the display, The molecular-style vase works as a flower frog, but by making the mechanics of the arrangement into art.

Above: The old-fashioned flower frog becomes modern, and an art piece in and of itself, with this organic, molecular style vase from Simão.

Kalanchoes don’t need a lot of water, so this vase works nicely with the small ceramic pockets available for water and to steady the leaves.

Above: Together or on their own the stems of kalanchoe offer color to a minimalist, white space.

Sticking to pastel hues makes a calming, restful arrangement for an at-home display; it’s carefree and needs no maintenance.

Above: Keep the leaves on the flowers to visually ground the arrangement.

Here you can see that I cut one stem shorter and left the other taller. In flower arranging, it’s always nice to have a leaf near the rim or bottom of the vase to visually ground the arrangement.

Above: Just a few stems, in an interesting handmade vase, offer a bespoke look for a home.

Looking for more about kalanchoes? See our curated guide to Succulents & Cacti 101, especially Succulents Explained: How to Identify and Grow 12 Favorites. Read more:

Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various houseplants with our Houseplants: A Field Guide.

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