Succulents are great indoor plants because they do not require as much care as most other species and are easy to propagate. One of the more popular ones is the Mother of Thousands.
Origin and Name
Mother of Thousands is a succulent plant native to Madagascar. It is also known by other names such as Alligator Plant, Mexican Hat Plant and Devil’s Backbone. It belongs to the family of Crassulacea and the genus is Bryophyllum.
This plant has long, fleshy, oblong leaves which grow up to 20cm long and 3.2 cm wide. They are green on top and slightly purple underneath. Like other members of the genus Bryhophyllum, it is able to propagate vegetatively from plantlets that develop on the leaf edges. The plantlets fall easily and root wherever they land. It is commonly found growing on gravelly and sandy soils.
The Many Mother of Thousands
The term ‘Mother of Thousands’ is a common name given to the varieties of Bryophyllum or Kalanchoe. They are the plants that reproduce plantlets that form along the leaf margins. Although having different genus, Bryophyllum are still referred to as Kalanchoe. But they are different. The most notable difference is their method of reproduction.
The Mother of Thousands plant requires minimal care and can tolerate dry conditions and high temperatures. But despite this, the plant still needs proper care. The guide below will help you manage this unique plant.
The Mother of Thousands does best in well draining, sandy soil. A potting mix designed for cacti is also good. If you don’t have a sandy potting soil, you can make your own by adding some coarse sand to regular potting soil. The following can also be added to the soil so that it drains well:
- Pumice – A great soil amendment, it is a mined volcanic rock product good for moisture regulation and aeration.
- Perlite – It is a volcanic rock that is puffed like popcorn to be very lightweight. It helps loosen soil, and prevent soil from clumping.
- Vermiculite – It is a glassy flat looking volcanic rock that is extremely absorbent.
This plant likes bright light but it’s not suggested to subject them to direct sunlight. Place the plant in indirect sunlight or else its delicate leaves can easily be sunburned.
If an east-facing window is available, the Mother of Thousands will grow there very well. North-facing windows are often not good locations for the plant as there are not enough hours of light for the plant there.
This drought-resistant plant still needs watering. Water the soil of the plant thoroughly. Water the soil only and avoid getting water on the leaves. The leaves are prone to rot when they get wet. Let it dry out completely before watering again. The next watering cycle should be when the soil is fully out of moisture.
The roots of the plant are extremely sensitive to temperature. So when watering the plant, always use water that is at room temperature. Using water that is too cold or too hot may cause damage to the roots. On colder months, water it less frequently. Provide just enough water so the soil stays moist without being saturated.
Mother of Thousands thrive in temperatures of 65 to 75° Fahrenheit (16 to 24° Celsius). On colder months, they don’t usually grow very well. When you’re heating your home, keep the plant away from direct heat as it can damage the leaves and dry the plant out too fast.
This plant doesn’t need any fertilizer, generally. They grow well with the right temperature and watering. In case you want to put fertilizer, make sure to put small quantities once a month in a much-diluted form.
This plant is typical problem-free but its leaves are a great attraction for insects like mealy bugs, scale or aphids. Mealy bugs can be controlled by wiping the infested leaves with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. Brown scale insects can also be removed by gently scraping them off. Aphids should be removed by hand. To prevent infestation of other plants, isolate the one that show signs of pest infestation.
Like any other house plants, a Mother of Thousands may need trimming from now and then. This type of plant can grow out of control and can reach up to three feet high with a long stalk of flower (if flowering) and many offshoots can develop from the bottom. If the plant starts to be wiry and spindly, pinch off the top of the plant directly above a large leaf. This will prompt the plant to start growing leaves further down on the stem.
Propagation of Mother of Thousands Varieties
The little plantlets that Mother of Thousands produce make propagation easy. All you have to do is to pick two or three of the plantlets from one of the leaves. If you’re not going to plant them right away, place the plantlets into a plastic bag, keep them moist until you’re ready to plant them.
Place the plantlets in a well-drained potting mix and spray the soil and plantlet. Place them in an area where they receive bright light and don’t forget to keep the soil moist. When it has grown about 2 inches tall, carefully take them from the small pot and move them into larger pots.
When the plant becomes too big for its pot, it can be repot to a bigger one. When the roots start to grow out through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot indicates it needs more room to grow. A good rule of thumb for choosing a pot is that it has a height and diameter about 2-inches more than its current pot.
When the plant is ready to be moved to a bigger pot, fill the new pot with one-third full of cactus or sandy soil then place the plant and fill it again with soil mix until the pot is filled leaving about one inch from the rim.
You can provide support to the plant using stalks until the roots are established. After potting, water the plant and place it in a well-lit area. The roots will start to develop and grow until a new leaf will grow also.
Is the plant poisonous?
Yes, the plant is poisonous. Although the Mother of Thousands is widely known as a houseplant, it should be kept in a place unreachable for children and pets. The plant contains daigremontianin, a cardiac glycoside. It is a highly toxic steroid from the category of bufadienolides which is known for causing cardiac poisoning.
However, the level of toxicity usually ranges from mild to moderate. When ingested, the Mother of Thousands often leads to gastrointestinal irritation and gastric distress, causing vomiting and diarrhea. It can also lead to some serious health issues like heart palpitations and changes in heart rate.
If kept indoors, keep the plant in a higher window or stand that is out of reach to children. Don’t forget to remove the small plantlets which frequently fall off the plant as they can be dangerous too. If the plant is kept outside, make sure to place it in an area that pets cannot reach.
Are theygood for terrariums?
Terrariums are a great way to grow and display succulents. The Mother of Thousands is a good plant for terrariums. However, it’s essential to remember that this plant is quite invasive with other plants so remove the plantlets from the terrarium before they root.