Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant)… Or Is It?

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) at 6″ tall x 7 3/4″ wide after I brought it home on 5-6-22. #879-7.

NOTE: This page needs to have a makeover, because obviously, this plant is a Kalanchoe luciae NOT K. thyrsiflora… 

Desert Cabbage, Flapjack Plant, Ice Sculpture Kalanchoe, Paddle Plant

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora

kal-un-KOH-ee  thur-SEE-flor-uh

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora Harv. is the accepted scientific name for this species of Kalanchoe. It was named and described as such by William Henry Harvey in Flora Capensis in 1862.

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

As of 12-18-22 when this page was updated, Plants of the World Online lists 165 species in the Kalanchoe genus. It is a member of the plant family Crassulaceae with 39 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.


Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 5-6-22. #879-8.

I brought home this nice Kalanchoe thyrsiflora home from Mast’s Greenhouse on May 7 in 2022. It was 6” tall x 7 3/4” wide. I wanted one of these for a while so I could compare it with the Kalanchoe luciae I brought home in 2016. They both go by basically the same common names, but more websites use the name Paddle Plant for K. thyrsiflora. Paddle Plant and Flapjack are both used for K. luciae. Now we understand why it is better to use scientific names because there are only one of each. 🙂

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 5-6-22. #879-9.

To complicate things somewhat, most photos online for Kalanchoe thyrsiflora are actually of K. luciae… Not only that, most plants available in garden centers and online that say K. thyrsiflora are also K. luciae. The plant I found at Mast’s Greenhouse wasn’t labeled, but I knew it was “the other Paddle Plant” so I brought one home. Mast’s always has a great selection of very healthy succulents although their method of growing them is completely unorthodox… When I picked up this plant at Mast’s, Mr. Mast wasn’t that busy so I had to quiz him… I asked, “Why in the heck do your succulents sitting in flats of water?” He grinned, looked around, then began his story…” Well, I know they have only been doing that for a few years but us small plant collectors can’t do it unless we have a hot greenhouse. If we tried that indoors, or even outside in pots, our plants would rot in no time.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 5-6-22. #879-10.

While the Kalanchoe luciae and K. thrysiflora share a lot in common, their leaves are a different shape, the plants grow differently, the coloration on their leaves (in bright sun or during cold winters) are also different. The Kalanchoe luciae in my collection are grown on the front porch in part sun so their leaves normally stay light green. A few years ago, I put one in the sun and it’s leaves turned an orangy red. One website says K. thyrsiflora doesn’t do this, so if your plants leaves turn an orangy-red it is a K. luciae. HOWEVER, a few leaves of the K. thyrsiflora I brought home had reddish margins. Typically, that may be all they do, BUT, if you do to the PlantZAfrica website, you will see photos of both species that have been growing in the sun… If you scroll down the page on the site, you will see where they have a comparison between the two species. To be honest with you, my K. luciae are sprawly plants and have never produced flowers. The inflorescence and flowers on my K. thyrsiflora look like their K. luciae. GEEZ!!! The leaf coloration seems correct, though. Time will tell when they bloom. If my K. luciae produce yellow flowers… Hmmm….

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) at 14 1/2″ tall on 10-16-22, #919-22.

I had to move the potted Plants inside for the winter on October 16 in 2022 because a “you know what” was in the forecast. I always take photos of the cactus and succulents and measure the cacti and some of the succulents. The Kalanchoe thyrsiflora measured 14 1/2″ tall by then. Remember, it was 6″ tall when I brought it home…

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 11-22-22, #925-6.

Then on November 11, I took the plant to the back porch to take a few photos. I forgot to measure it, but on December 18 is was 28″ tall…

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 11-22-22, #925-7.

I think in optimal conditions, like in more sun, the plant and inflorescence would be a little different. The inflorescence would likely be more compact rather than stretching for more light. Well, this plant has been in a plant shelf in front of a west-facing window since October 16… Not much bright sun.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 11-22-22, #925-8.

Here’s the weird thing. PlantZAfrica says K. thyrsiflora have yellow flowers while K. luciae has greenish-white flowers. Plus, K. thyrsiflora are supposed to have only 4 anthers exposed beyond the corolla tube while K. luciae have 8. DOUBLE GEEZ!!!

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (Paddle Plant) on 11-22-22, #925-9

How can can some of their characteristics be mixed up??? Well, until this plant flowered, I was so sure it was a Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. Now, I am not so sure at all! I hate it when that happens! I suppose I have to do some work on both species in 2023.

Websites mostly all say it takes 3-5 years for both species to produce flowers. I have had my K. luciae for almost 7 years and still have had no flowers. Here I bring home what I thought was a K. thyrsiflora home and it blooms the first year. I guess the plants Mast’s bought from the supplier were already 3-5 years old…

The problem is, both species are monocarpic meaning they will die at some point after they produce flowers. Like my Kalanchoe laetivirens (Mother of Thousands) and K. daigremontiana (Alligator Plant), they are supposed to produce offsets from the base of the plant after flowering. With the latter two species, they also produce plantlets along their phyloclades (modified leaves). The offsets grow much quicker and make much better plants.

Family: Crassulaceae
Origin: South Africa
Zones: USDA Zones 9a-11 (20-40° F/-6.6 to 4.5° C)
Size: 12-28” +/-
Light: Sun to part shade.
Soil: Good quality, very well-draining potting soil. I amend the potting soil with pumice (50/50) or chicken grit and perlite (2-1-1).
Water: Regular watering during the summer, then not that much in the winter. Usually when leaves get wrinkly…

To view the page of my Kalanchoe luciae, click HERE.

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 and species of this plant. If you see I have made an error, please let me know in a comment or email me at thebelmontrooster@yahoo.com.

Ummm… Several websites show photos of K. luciae instead of K. thyrsiflora… But heck, I could be doing the same thing!