Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears)

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) at 5″ tall x 13 3/4″ wide after I brought it home from Wagler’s Greenhouse on 3-29-21.

Donkey Ears, Life Plant, Palm Beachballs, Velvet Ear Kalanchoe, Sprouting Leaf, Sprouting Leaf Plant, Miracle Leaf, Good Luck Leaf, Giant Kalanchoe, Tree of Life…

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri

kal-un-KOH-ee  gas-TON bon-nee-ER-ee

Synonyms of Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (3) (Updated on 11-18-21 from Plants of the World Online): Bryophyllum gastonis-bonnieri (Raym.-Hamet & H.Perrier) Lauz.-March., Kalanchoe adolphi-engleri Raym.-Hamet, Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri var. ankaizinensis Boiteau ex L.Allorge

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri Raym.-Hamet & Perrier is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Kalanchoe. It was named and described as such by Raymond-Hamet and Joseph Marie Henry Alfred Perrier de la Bâthie in Annales des Sciences Naturelles in 1912.

The genus, Kalanchoe Adans., was named and described as such by Michel Adanson in Familles des Plantes in 1763.

As of 11-18-21 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 157 species in the Kalanchoe genus. It is a member of the plant family Crassulaceae with 36 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.


Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) leaf on 3-29-21, #785-9.

I went to Wagler’s Greenhouse on March 29 (2021) and found a few succulents I didn’t have that I always wanted to try. I was very surprised when I found this Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri so I had to grab one of the two they had. I first found out about this species of Kalanchoe when I was on the website called Sucs for You. I drooled!

The Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri is a native of northwestern Madagascar. It has naturalized in other areas after being introduced as an ornamental. It is well known for its HUGE leaves, some of the biggest of all the Kalanchoe species. It has many common names including Donkey Ears, Life Plant, Palm Beachballs, Velvet Ear Kalanchoe, Sprouting Leaf, Sprouting Leaf Plant, Miracle Leaf, Good Luck Leaf, Giant Kalanchoe, Tree of Life, and possibly others. Some of the common names are shared by other species…

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) leaf underside on 3-29-21, #785-10.

It’s huge leaves are described as ovate-lanceolate and taker to a point. Leaves can be light green to bronze-green and are covered with maroon streaks and spots. The leaves can grow to around 12-18” long and produce plantlets along the margins at the tips. 

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 3-39-21, #785-11.

Leaves and stems are covered somewhat with a waxy, powdery “bloom” that protects the plant from the sun.

If it is like Kalanchoe daigremontiana and x K. x laetivirens, the scientific community says their leaves are actually phylloclades which are flattened branches modified for photosynthesis. Ummm… Flattened stems are called cladodes. Interesting that phylloclades still have a petiole that attaches to the stem. I wonder if a plant with a cladode that produces a phylloclade is attached to a petiole? 🙂 There are several species and hybrids of Kalanchoe that do this and they have bounced around from the genus Kalanchoe and Bryophyllum several times. Many share the same common names of Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions…

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 3-29-21, #785-12.

After a few years, it “may” produce a flower stalk up to 3’ tall with a candelabra of flowers. Being monocarpic, after flowering the plant will die… One of my Kalanchoe x laetivirens did this and it was AWESOME. Well, the flower part was awesome but not the dying part. I have a long history with the Kalanchoe x laetivirens you can read about my clicking HERE if you want…

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 7-19-21, #815-4.

On July 19 I noticed the Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri needed to be rotated. It is sitting on a table on the back porch under the covered part. It gets plenty of morning sun but is protected from full sun. Not that full sun would hurt it as long as it isn’t really hot. When I rotated the pot, I noticed something… I moved it to the propagating table to have a better look.

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 7-19-21, #815-5.

It has its first kid… Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri is “one of those” Kalanchoe that produces plantlets from its leaves, phylloclades, or whatever you choose to call them. The scientific community calls their leaves phylloclades, which are modified “branches” used for photosynthesis… To the rest of us, they are just odd leaves. 🙂

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 7-19-21, #815-6.

I found it quite weird the roots of the plantlets are pink… I guess it’s a girl. I wonder if boys have blue roots? Please don’t take that seriously. I doubt the pink has anything to do with gender.

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 7-19-21, #815-7.

The lower leaf on the opposite side of the plant is also pregnant. It appears another one is starting next to it. I will be keeping an eye on it…

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) on 9-18-21, #831-1.

This plant has been steadily growing all summer, but it really jumped in September.

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) at 12″ tall x 22″ wide on 9-18-21, #831-2.

It has grown to 12″ tall x 22″ wide. It may be that tall since it is leaning toward the sun. I rotated it again to lean the other direction. I have put it in the full sun a few times which it doesn’t seem to mind. I have a tendency to keep my plants in a little shade when some of them would do just fine in more sun.

Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri (Donkey Ears) offset at 4″ wide on 9-18-21, #831-3.

The largest “plantlet” is now 4″ wide. If you have one of these it may be a good idea to set the pot on something to raise the plant a little to keep its leaves from touching the table. Putting them in a hanging pot would also be a good idea.

Family: Crassulaceae.
Origin: Madagascar.
Zones: USDA Zones 10-11 (40° F/4.5° C).
Size: 12-18” (Dave’s Garden says 36-48” tall).
*Light: Sun to part shade.
**Soil: Very well-draining. Good quality potting soil amended with pumice (50/50) or additional perlite and chicken grit (2-1-1).
***Water: Regular watering during the summer and barely any during the winter.

*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light but they did great. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. Most of the succulents, including the Kalanchoe, are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom but a few are in my bedroom.

**When it comes to potting soil, finding the “sweet spot” is not exactly that easy when materials are limited. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts (and experts) do not recommend using peat-based commercial mixes but what choice is there for most of us. They say to use a loam-based mix… Hmmm… Our soil is loam, so do I just use dirt? Well, no because “dirt” is heavy and you need a “light” material. There is A LOT of cactus and succulent recipes online and some get pretty elaborate. Many say to use sand as an ingredient, but if you do that, it needs to be very coarse, like builders sand, because “ordinary” sand, like for sandboxes, is too fine and it clogs up the air space between the coarser ingredients. For MANY years I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz Potting amended with an additional 1 part of perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Schultz doesn’t seem to have as many large pieces of bark. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommended using pumice instead of perlite and grit so I checked it out… The “guy” at General Pumice (online) recommended using a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pumice. General Pumice has 3 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the pot. SO, in 2018 I bought a bag of 1/8″ and mixed it 50/50 with Miracle Grow Potting Soil. I liked it pretty well. Then in 2020, since most of the cactus were in larger pots, I ordered the 1/4″ size. Pumice has a lot of benefits over perlite and has nutrients that are added to the soil when watering. Pumice is also heavier so it stays mixed in the soil instead of “floating” to the top. Still, there is the issue of the mix getting very hard once you stop watering the plants during the winter when you stop watering. I think this is because of the peat in the potting soil… SO, instead of re-potting the cactus and succulents in the spring, I started doing it during the fall and winter so their soil would be loose. Since you don’t water as frequently during the winter if at all, the timed-release fertilizer does not activate. I have not tried coir, but I am looking into it…

You have to sort of mimic the soil where species grow in their native habitat. For that, you almost have to go see for yourself… Typically, they grow in fairly rocky soil.

***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) until close to time to take them back outside.

You can read my Cactus Talk & Update and Cactus & Succulent Tips to get my opinion about growing cactus and succulents.

When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.

I will definitely be adding more photos and information about the Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri as time goes by. I think this will be an exciting plant to watch grow.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus, species, and/or cultivar of this plant. If you notice I made an error, please let me know. Of course, you can always send me an email at thebelmontrooster@yahoo.com.


NOTE: The figures may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates (and if they update their sources or even read what they say). Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates at least once a year and when I write new pages and add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂


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