Mother of Thousands: Indoor Plant Care Guide

By Jennifer Schutter | Updated: June 22, 2023

Scientific name

Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Common name

Mother of Thousands



Checked by Jennifer Schutter, Certified Master Gardener

Mother of Thousands




Bright, indirect light


Cactus potting mix






Not needed


Bright, indirect light




Not needed

Mother of Thousands, beloved by . . . millions? Kalanchoe daigremontiana, or Devil’s Backbone, is a unique succulent that seems to just pour pups out of every leaf, also making it an invasive species in many countries.

We’ll cover the care essentials for Mother of Thousands, including how to propagate those pups into completely new plants, the perfect soil, and just how much light and water it needs to thrive.

We’ll also cover the most common issues that come up and how to easily fix them!

Mother of Thousands Care Guide

History, Habitat, and Characteristics

Mother of Thousands, known as Kalanchoe daigremontiana, is an exciting succulent with a special trick up its sleeve: pups.

And lots of them.

This remarkable plant hails from Madagascar, evolving in relative isolation over time and giving it some truly unique features.

(Other names for this plant are the Mexican hat plant, alligator plant, or Devil’s Backbone (Bryophyllum daigremontianum). It’s related to the jade plant, but couldn’t be more different in appearance or propagation).

Botanist Alwin Berger initially classified this species (revising Otto Stapf’s descriptions) as Bryophyllum daigremontianum in the early 20th century, and it was subsequently reclassified as Kalanchoe daigremontiana. This species was given its common name due to its unique and rapid propagation method — taking the form of small plantlets that grow off of leaves and can easily take root in the soil.

I highly recommend this plant for beginners. In fact, most succulents from the Crassulceae (stone crop) family are easy to care for.

(Check it out: we’ve put together our 21+ essential tips for taking care of houseplants. This is all our indoor plant advice in one place, if you need it handy, including a section on succulents.)

Succulent plants from this family share a lot of features, but the most important comes from their unique method of photosynthesis — Crassuclean acid metabolism, or CAM. CAM allows these plants to open the stomata on their leaves during the night instead of during the day.

So why is that an advantage?

This ingenious feature means they’re less porous during the hotter desert days in their native environment, making these drought-tolerant plants less sensitive to water, humidity, and light.

Mother of Thousands features blue-green leaves that form low-spreading rosettes. It usually reaches only a few feet tall outdoors, and will be a fair bit smaller as an indoor houseplant.

Did you know it can bloom?

Mother of Thousands blooms when it’s not just surviving but absolutely thriving. And it will reward you beautifully for providing those conditions, producing bell-shaped flowers that hang down off their stems in shades of pink, orange, and yellow hues.

Due to its exceptional capacity to spread and propagate, this plant has become an invasive species in many countries, with instances of it uprooting native species.

So, do your local plants a favor: keep this one indoors.


We’ll cover the three main varieties of Mother of Thousands – Kalanchoe daigremontiana, Kalanchoe x laetivirens, and Kalanchoe laetivirens ‘Variegata’.

  • Kalanchoe daigremontiana is a smaller variety that clusters up and sports vivid purple blooms.
  • Kalanchoe x laetivirens is larger, tends to tolerate the shade pretty well, and has a hue that changes in different lighting conditions.
  • Kalanchoe laetivirens ‘Variegata’ is a variegated version with yellowish or whitish edges on its leaves that prefers indirect light or part sun. In some light, these tiny plantlets look almost neon.

So, Mother of Thousands . . . of tiny plantlets, not so much of variations.

(To learn all about Kalanchoe plants, check out our full guide!)

Okay, let’s continue on into our care guide for this drought-tolerant plant.


For the Mother of Thousands, light isn’t so much a matter of survival but of how much it will thrive, bloom, and self-propagate. When you hit just the right amount of light, you’ll be greatly rewarded, and the plant is patient as you calibrate.

Too little light? You’ll notice the plant becoming leggy and a little unruly as it stretches out for those precious rays.

During the summer months, east-facing windows are best since the morning sunlight is less intense. For maximum success, try to place your Mother of Thousands in a spot where it can receive at least 6 hours of indirect light each day. South and west windows have a much higher intensity of sunlight, so these should only be used during winter months when light is at a premium.

Our tips:

  • Place your Mother of Thousands near a bright, east-facing window with indirect sunlight in hotter months and more direct sunlight in cooler months.
  • Avoid north-facing windows, as they don’t provide sufficiently bright light, and south/west-facing windows, which can provide too much intensity and heat in peak summer months.
  • Check that the leaves are getting an appropriate amount of light — if so, they’ll be bright green with a hint of red. Too little light will cause the plant to become spindly and tall with spaces between the leaves.


As we mentioned above, its unique type of photosynthesis (Crassulacean acid metabolism) allows the Mother of Thousands plant to conserve water during the day.

That being said, a succulent plant like this one will still be much happier when given large drinks of water, even if infrequently. Room temperature water that’s filtered, distilled, or rainwater (if you have it!) works best.

Generally, watering every 1-2 weeks is a decent interval, but check the soil and see if it feels damp first. If so, wait a little longer.

Temperature and Humidity

As a desert plant, Mother of Thousands is especially tolerant to fluctuation in both temperature and humidity. In the wild, these plants have a variety of honed techniques for retaining their water (including clustering together). As indoor plants, we need to give them a little bit of help to regulate both of these.

Temperature: Mother of Thousands prefers to be warm and will thrive between 65-80°F, which is an especially common range for a plant near a window. Temperatures much higher than this can cause leaf drop, and if you go below 40°F for too long, you’ll notice slow growth, very few blooms, and a generally pallid appearance.

Humidity: Mother of Thousands is naturally adapted to a dry climate and can do well in lower humidity. There actually isn’t too much you should have to do here, but if you’re worried, you can try to cluster this plant together with others or add a pebble tray.

A pebble tray is what it sounds like: small stones in a tray filled with water. As the water evaporates from the tray’s large surface area, you’ll increase the local humidity. Aim for a humidity north of 40%.

Avoid misting the leaves of this plant (and in fact, most indoor plants). This tends to promote rot and pests.

Soil and Planting

I really recommend a cactus potting mix (this is our favorite) for a Mother of Thousands plant. It’s a loose potting soil that replicates the natural environment this plant thrives in and gives it plenty of room for root growth.

Normally we’d suggest adding perlite, sand, or other additives to your soil, but with cactus potting mix, you should already have those included. The perlite and sand they include keep the soil airy and slow to compress, which also increases drainage while keeping the roots oxygenated. If you want to add more to your mix, you can feel free!

For a container, a terracotta pot works great — just make sure it has plenty of drainage holes and room for expansion as the plant grows.

Propagation Guide

Propagating Mother of Thousands is super simple. In fact, that’s where this plant gets its name: the tiny plantlets that naturally form around its edges.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that these plants can be easily detached from a shared stem called a stolon. These let the new baby plantlets receive nutrients and water from the parent plant while they mature and get ready to thrive on their own.

Okay, let’s get pupagating!

Propagating Mother of Thousands by division:

You’ll really only need a few new pots, some cactus soil, and a sterilized pair of scissors. In a pinch, your fingers work too.

  1. With the scissors, cut a few of the plantlets free from the Mother of Thousands plant. You can place them in a wet/cool paper towel if you’ll be taking a while to plant them.
  2. Fill a terracotta pot with cactus soil and plant your babies, leaving at least half an inch between each of them.
  3. Wet the soil and cover the pot with a clear plastic bag to keep the humidity high, placing it near a sunny window (but not in any direct sun).
  4. Keep things humid and warm for a few weeks. After that, remove the bag and keep an eye on that soil. These plants have immature roots and will want some extra water and opportunities to dry out.
  5. After a month or two, you should be able to repot each plant into its own pot, or keep them clustered until they get unruly.

So, how do you know when a pup is ready for removal and when propagation can begin?

These tiny plantlets need to be able to survive on their own, which means they need to have developed their own roots and at least a few leaves.

While on the subject, it’s always best to attempt propagation during the growing season (spring/summer). Plants tend to have more energy (bright light) during this period, so can do better with losing some of their photosynthetic surface area!

Common Issues

Mother of Thousands plants are incredibly easy to take care of, but they do have some of their own unique issues.

Is this why they’re called an alligator plant? Should we fear the Devil’s Backbone? Nah, not quite!

Browning Leaf Tips

Browning leaf tips can often be an example of leaf burn from excessive fertilizer use (typically the nitrogen), or too much direct sunlight. If you notice leaf edges that are browning, crispy, and thin, you’ll need to find a shadier spot, and that’s saying a lot for succulents!

Brown or Yellowing Leaves

Like most common issues, this takes a bit of diagnosis. If you notice limp, yellow leaves, it’s likely due to overwatering or a slow draining soil. Typically, to fix this, we need to remedy the soil (if too moist) with a cactus potting mix, or water less frequently. You might also notice root root (which we’ll cover in the next section) while repotting Mother. If so, you’ll have a few additional steps to take.

Invasive Species

Not often what we think of when we go into common issues, but how did Mother of Thousands, a plant from isolated Madagascar, become known as the Mexican hat plant? This Mother is invasive, and appropriately named.

This means it easily spreads and establishes quickly in new locations, generating new, tiny plantlets quickly. It survives in a variety of climates, meaning those new plants also tend to take root and thrive, then create their own thousands of offspring.

The remedy? Try to keep it indoors.

Diseases and Pests

The Mother of Thousands plant, while hardy, is still susceptible to the common diseases and pests that plague most indoor plants. Let’s cover a few of them.

Root Rot

Root rot is always caused by water issues, either from watering too frequently and not letting the soil dry out, or a combination of pot/soil that doesn’t drain fast enough. You’ll see dropped leaves yellowing and browning. Overall, the plant will just look sad.

Prevention means improving the soil composition and repotting; cutting off the mushy, black or brown roots; and making sure to only water when the soil is dry up to two inches.


Fungal diseases are common among Mother of Thousands and can be spotted by yellow or brown circles on the center of leaves.

To treat, spray with a mixture of white vinegar and water mixed equally, or use a commercial fungicide. Make sure to reduce the amount of water given to the plant as well and to keep the plant itself dry. Succulents usually don’t like much water on them.


Spider mites, mealybugs, and other pests will bother your Mother of Thousands from time to time. You can spot either their webs or little white puffs of cotton. To treat, use a mild soap or neem oil solution and try to keep your plant away from other indoor plants until the problem is fixed (so the infestation doesn’t spread).


Whether it’s a Mexican hat plant, alligator plant, or just plain Mother, this drought-tolerant succulent will prove easy to care for and reward your efforts with baby plantlets: thousands of them!

So there you have it: keep your Mother of Thousands happy (frequent phone calls, but infrequent water), hand out new plants to your friends, and really try to avoid too much moisture.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment. Happy growing!


Is there a difference between the Mexican Hat Plant, Alligator Plant, or Mother of Thousands plants?

Nope! These are all names for Kalanchoe daigremontiana, which does share some features with Kalanchoe Chandelier (in particular, the bell shaped blooms). If you have one, you have them all — what a deal!

Is Mother of Thousands plant invasive?

Mother of Thousands is an invasive plant, so do take care if keeping yours outdoors. Before you take your plant outdoors, it’s best to check with your local recommendations and regulations to see if this one might be better to keep in a sunny living room.

Is Mother of Thousands plant poisonous to touch?

It’s not considered poisonous to touch, but does contain bufadienolides, which are toxic if ingested.

How do you get the Mother of Thousands to flower?

Getting flowers for your mother and getting your Mother plant to flower are actually related in one central way: the key is to make her happy.

Mother of Thousands will happily produce its bell-shaped flowers if you offer it these key conditions:

  • Protection from freezing temperatures
  • Sandy soil
  • Enough light (indirect)
  • Infrequent but large waterings

Can you grow Kalanchoe plants in peat moss or other soil?

We really only recommend either a cactus potting mix or your own mix of potting soil, sand, and perlite. Mother of Thousands loves sandy soil — it’s full of air and room for its roots, drains fast, and gives it the nutrients it’s used to in the wild.

Is the Mother of Thousands plant a succulent plant?

It is, and we can briefly cover why. Mother of Thousands is considered a succulent because it’s well-adapted to thrive in its natural environment, which often has limited water. Succulent species have in common the mechanisms they use to preserve this water. Their leaves close up during the day, they are fleshier than most tropical plants (so they can store that water), and they have thicker stems (for similar reasons).


Our Expert
Jennifer Schutter

Jennifer Schutter is a certified master gardener with over 14 years of gardening experience. Her expertise is in indoor plant propagation and home ecology.