Kalanchoe beharensis (Felt Bush)
Kalanchoe beharensis Drake
Felt Bush, Felt Plant, Elephant's Ear Kalanchoe, Velvet Elephant Ear, Velvet Leaf, Velvet Leaf Kalanchoe, Napoleon's Hat, Maltese Cross, Teddy Bear
Kalanchoe beharensis is a succulent shrub that becomes tree-like as it slowly grows up to 12 feet (3.6 m) tall. It has woody stems and large, undulated and folded, olive-green, slightly-triangular leaves covered in sort brown hairs that give the leaves a soft, velvety texture. Each leaf is up to 4 inches (10 cm) long with an equal width. Once mature, it produces small greenish-yellow flowers in winter.
USDA hardiness zone 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Kalanchoe care is minimal, but be cautious about light levels. Intense southern light can burn the tips of the leaves. Place pots in partial sun to light shade areas when growing Kalanchoe plants.
The flowering varieties are highly rewarding for their colorful and long-lasting flowers. They prefer bright, sunny locations, especially in the summer growing season. During the winter, consider a south-facing window. Water moderately throughout the summer and reduce watering in the winter. Let the soil surface dry out between waterings, and in the winter, the plant can almost dry out. Watch the fleshy leaves for signs of water distress. They prefer warmth. Do not let fall below 55ºF (12.7ºC). An ordinary potting soil mix is fine. Feed bi-weekly in the summer with a liquid fertilizer, or use slow-release pellets.
These small plants require repotting every few years. When re-potting, take additional care in handling as the leaves are somewhat brittle and can snap easily. Clay pots work exceptionally well for planting Kalanchoes. Ensure pots can drain well, and saucers can empty easily. See more at How to Grow and Care for Kalanchoe.
Kalanchoe beharensis is native to Madagascar.
- Kalanchoe beharensis 'Brown Dwarf'
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Origin and distribution
Kalanchoe beharensis is native to the Behara region of South Madagascar. It grows wild in South Madagascar. Kalanchoe beharensis prefers to grow in several types of soils in xerophyte conditions (conditions from minimal no water at all).
How does Kalanchoe Beharensis look like?
Kalanchoe beharensis is a large shrub with a unique appearance. It grows to a height of 3 to 5 inches in cultivation. But it can reach up to a height of 12 to 20 inches under ideal growth conditions. It has a woody trunk, stem, and branches. Leaves are large, arrowhead or triangular shaped 5 to 14 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide.
The olive-green leaves are covered with whitish felt-like hairs that’s why given the name Felt Bush. The hairs give the leaves a velvety texture. The mature leaves are concave and rusty brown. It produces small greenish-yellow urn-shaped flowers.
Kalanchoe beharensis is an evergreen shrub, 3–5 ft (1–2 m) tall.  The stem is about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) long, slender and knotted. Leaves are olive green, triangular-lanceolate shaped, decussately arranged (pairs at right-angles to each other) with leaf margins that are doubly crenate (crinkled). Each leaf is about 10 cm (4 in) long and 5–10 cm (2–4 in) wide. The bottoms of the leaves are glabrous (smooth and glossy), and covered with a woolly hair towards the apex. The leaf hairs are brown, and the tips of the teeth are darker. The hairs on the stem, younger leaves, and petioles (leaf stalks) are white. A sign of older leaves is concavity on the upper surface. Inflorescences are 50–60 cm (20–24 in) high, forming a branched corymb. Flowers are on short pedicels (stalks). The calyx is 7 mm long with lobes that are oblong and acuminate (tapering to a point). The corolla tube is urn-shaped and 7 mm long.  Blooming occurs from spring to summer, and flowers are small and yellowish. 
The types of trichome present on the leaves of Kalanchoe vary among the different species. The different types of trichomes are an indicator of adaptation to a particular environment. On the leaf blade of K. beharensis there are trichomes of the non-glandular, bushy three-branched type. This type of trichome is dead, with evidence of tannin. K. beharensis trichomes are also characterized by striped cuticular ornamentation on their surface. Glandular trichomes are also present on the leaves, with more on petioles than on leaf blades, and more on the top of the leaf as opposed to the bottom. 
The genus Kalanchoe may reproduce asexually by producing plantlets on leaf margins, which when distributed on a suitable substrate will form new plants. Plantlet-forming species fall under two categories. The first category is induced plantlet-forming species that produce plantlets under stress. The second plantlet-forming species is constitutive plantlet-forming species that spontaneously forms plantlets. Induced plantlet-forming species have the LEC1 gene that allows them to produce seeds, whereas the constitutive plantlet-forming species have a defective LEC1 gene and cannot produce seeds.  K. beharensis produces seeds as well as plantlets. 
Kalanchoe beharensis uses a system of defense, not unique to this plant, termed stress-limited defence. This system involves deterring herbivores (plant eating creatures) before a high stress level ensues causing cracking in the tissue of the plant. High hardness, a structural component of this system, is characterized by tissues with high density. Since the tissues of plants employing this defense system have a high density, the defenses, commonly spines, prickles, thorns and hair, must reside on the surface of the plant. Amorphous silica is found in the defense structures with a microhardness of about 5000 MPa,  which is higher than the microhardness of insects, and of mammalian enamel with a microhardness of 3500 MPa.  Through research, this defense system is shown to decrease the amount of plant matter eaten by vertebrate herbivores by reducing the size of the bite a herbivore takes, the volume of a bite, or the rate at which biting occurs. 
The first field study of crassulacean acid metabolism, a type of carbon fixation, has been done on Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Drake del Castillo’, in a paper by Kluge et al. entitled "In situ studies of crassulacean acid metabolism in Kalanchoe beharensis Drake Del Castillo, a plant of the semi-arid southern region of Madagascar." The study includes information on diel patterns of CO2 exchange and transpiration. It also includes measurements of fluctuations in organic acid levels, PEP carboxylase properties and water relations. Some conclusions of this study are that Kalanchoe beharensis advantageously performs CAM fully during the entire arid seasons, avoiding CAM idling. It can do this because of its ability to maintain the correct water balance in its leaves, even in periods of drought. 
It may be grown as a houseplant or outdoors in mostly frost-free landscapes and is not toxic to dogs if it has not been treated with any chemicals (according to the National Animal Poison Information network).  This plant needs full to partial sun, with intermediate to warm temperatures above 5 °C (41 °F).  It will survive frost on a scale from light to moderate.  For growth in a greenhouse K. beharensis will grow in a mixture of equally distributed loam and sand, and gravel for drainage. The plant should be dry before watering again, as too much water will kill it. Watering should occur every 14–20 days during the growing season. In the winter months it should be watered sparingly. The species is resilient and will survive if neglected. 
Propagation is by seed,  stem cuttings, or by leaf cuttings, in which the mid rib should be cut in various places. The cuttings should be grown on a sandy substrate. 
Kalanchoe Species, Elephant Ear Kalanchoe, Felt Plant, Velvet Leaf Kalanchoe
|Family:||Crassulaceae (krass-yoo-LAY-see-ee) (Info)|
|Genus:||Kalanchoe (kal-un-KOH-ee) (Info)|
|Species:||beharensis (be-HAIR-en-sis) (Info)|
|Synonym:||Kalanchoe beharensis var. aureo-aeneus|
|Synonym:||Kalanchoe beharensis var. subnuda|
Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Where to Grow:
Suitable for growing in containers
Soil pH requirements:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
Huntington Park, California
Los Angeles, California(2 reports)
North Highlands, California
Fort Lauderdale, Florida(2 reports)
Hawaiian Ocean View, Hawaii
On Jul 16, 2020, hfhf from Fort Lauderdale, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:
A couple of people have made posts about the "invasiveness" of this plant. The poster from Decatur, GA is definitely mistaken about the plant they are reporting as worse than kudzu -- in the first place K. beharensis could never survive the winter in any zone of Georgia. Curious about what plant they were referring to, I googled "Georgia invasive velvet leaf" and the resulting culprit is Abutilon theophrasti, which is a highly invasive southeast Asian annual. It looks NOTHING like K. beharensis (to me at least!) so it's perplexing to have that erroneous post on this page. The poster from Hawaii may well be correct about this becoming invasive in the particular climate and lava rock soil of the islands, but my experience growing this in South Florida has never had any aggressive tendenc. read more ies whatsoever. Our climate is probably a little bit too wet for this plant though. There are several large specimens here and there around Miami and Fort Lauderdale but they often look a little bit ragged. Definitely an unusual and fun succulent plant to grow!
On Oct 31, 2019, konalehua from Hawaiian Ocean View, HI wrote:
This plant was left to grow wild for many years at the house I just bought. It’s taken over a big patch of cleared land and moved into the native forest. Here in ocean view on Hawaii island, it is invasive. It loves to grow in the well drained lava rock. Those saying it’s not invasive at all, are plain wrong. It certainly depends on your location, but I live in the tropics. It flowers and seeds and grows from fallen leaves. Very ugly plant when it gets big.
On Jun 5, 2014, davebartell from Los Gatos, CA wrote:
Terrific plant in terms of distinct look and simplicity of care. It has grown to 5 feet and appears awkward (long stem, too tall for its location). Can I cut the stem and repot? Will it reroot as other succulent-like plants do?
On Apr 27, 2014, Lonecolt from Los Angeles, CA wrote:
This plant does NOT propogate by seeding and does NOT develop plantlets on its leaf margins, so those stating that this plant is invasive are sadly mistaken. They must have a different type of Kalanchoe. This plant must be propagated by stem or leaf cuttings.
On Oct 9, 2013, dalerekus2 from San Diego, CA wrote:
I believe 10TPz is referring to Abutilon theophrasti and not Kalanchoe beharensis which does not have either hollow stems or heart-shaped leaves. Cheers . . .
On Mar 18, 2012, camrichdesign from Scottsdale, AZ wrote:
Here in Scottsdale this plant does great. Purchased it in a one gallon container, and it is 5' tall and 3' wide after just 3 years. It does require filtered sun in the hottest part of the summer otherwise the leaves can burn.
On Mar 11, 2012, parismom from Hopewell, NJ wrote:
hi! i've been growing this little charmer in my sunny window and it's doing all the thingsyou've all commented on before, sending off little plants, etc. within this thread, there was one negative comment and some general commentary on how it "takes over" we are in new jersey, zone 6 and i hesitate to plant it if i'm going to be chasing it all over the yard, as i've done with a small variety of sedum, which is threatening to devour my house :-) any further thoughts would be appreciated. thanks!
On May 6, 2011, LAGardengirl from Los Angeles, CA wrote:
I've been growing a fang in a pot on my north facing balcony for about 4 years and it has just kept getting taller & taller until, at the end of winter it sprang a flower spike from the only central stem in the pot. After the flowers died I cut off the top of the spike. Does anyone know if it's like bromeliads and some aloe whereby, after flowering, the plant begins to die?
On Mar 8, 2011, Coupe from Tujunga, CA wrote:
I have never seen any offshoots of any of these plants. My way to grow more is to break off a leaf, put in in a dark, dry area and a small plant grows from the end of the stem, where you break it off. They sure don't flower often, and since it's from Madacascar, I can believe it would grow in tropical areas. My experience is it likes mostly shade. When frost hits, I've had some 'melt', looks like a deflated balloon. There are some at Disneyland, inside "Bugs Life" where they are pretty good size, and are arranged like hedges. There are also some along the tram route.
On Jul 6, 2010, Porphyrostachys from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:
I have to sort of chuckle about the post about K. beharensis being an invasive plant. I WISH it was an invasive plant here in Arizona. It's probably one of my most favorite succulent plants and I can only dream about them just coming up everywhere! I'd be completely happy with a K. beharensis jungle!
Dreaming aside, K. beharensis can be grown here in the Phoenix area, but needs a 'safe place' away from the blistering afternoon sun and also a warm place when the frosts come. An eastern exposure near the home is probably most wise if you want to ground the plant out, otherwise a pot on wheels works too. A heavy frost like what was had in 2007 will knock a tall K. beharensis out entirely, though the smaller hybrids and forms like 'Oak Leaf' will, surprisingly, come back from the r. read more oots if they've been established in the ground for a number of years!
You can also get creative and build a shade house for your more tender succulents here that you cover in plastic in winter and keep a heater going. It allows you to bed out plants that you normally couldn't and still keep them happy.
On May 15, 2010, 10TPz from Decatur, GA wrote:
You do not want this plant in your garden! It has been outlawed as a noxious plant because of its profuse seeding capacity that can seed surrounding fields for 50 years, even after the seed has passed through the digestive tract of an animal. Velvet Leaf shoots up very quickly, flaunting huge, heartshaped leaves on fuzzy, hollow stems. Unfortunatey, it drains the soil of nutrients, to the disadvantage of food crops and family gardens. My family has joked for years about the tenacity of this plant. We have sawn it to the ground, ground up the roots last year, a "pro" launched an attack on it with poisons--and not only has it come up in the usual spot, it has sprung new growth 5 ft. away. I admire the Velvet Leaf that someone left behind for me, but when a Georgian tells you that there's . read more a plant that can outdo Kudzu, you should sit up and listen.
On Jun 11, 2009, wormfood from Lecanto, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:
I grow all of mine from leaves. Lay the leaf on top of the soil in shaded area and do not water. That's it. Leave it alone. Don't water it until the mother leaf is dried up and no longer feeding it.
On May 28, 2009, suzypreston from Melbourne,
My most beloved plant! Here in Melbourne, it happily survives gale strength winds, 40 plus heat, and blazing sun. Autumn rain brings on a huge flush of growth, and it is presently 2 metres tall- ( and very straight, no twistyness as mentioned in other notes) Morning sun shines through leaves, showing beautiful veining. Soft cinnamon-brown fuzz. Also setting to bloom for first time in 8 years now, in the autumn. Seems happy with cool wet winters (properly drained) and dry burning summers. I have propagated one by pulling a broken leaf off at base and laying on sandy mix, but it's taken all summer to end up with a pea sized set of leafs at base of stem. Also, found a tiny set of roots growing from the edge of a hole that formed where a leaf was severely sun-burnt, and I've potted it up. I. read more f you have a frost -free winter and awater-restricted summer, plant it, and fall in love !
On Feb 25, 2009, Tontokick from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:
Mine is a very impressive plant that stands out from other plants grown in a pot, a true speciman. About the fastest growing succulent I've come across, maybe grows a little too big for limited indoor space. I have to have it inside Dec. thru Feb. I'm battling mealybug, however. I've sprayed it with neem oil and used a systemic insect control on the roots. I have three or four other good starts, so I'm tempted to discard the parent plant which is about four feet tall.
On Jan 20, 2009, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:
Surprisngly hardy plant taking near freezing temps very well. Also handles our cool bay area wet winters also . I'm not sure why it isn't seen much if at all outdoors here. The newer selections seem to have decidedly brown leafs where the type has only a hint.
If you want a contrast to the usual shapes and forms of xeric plants-this has it.
On Nov 24, 2007, tmccullo from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:
We have had ours two years now and keep it in a pot. It is about 2.5 feet tall and produces new leaves about once a month. We water it lightly about once a week and keep it outside in the sun all but December thru February. This is one of the most unusual plants we have. I have noticed that in full sun the leaves do turn a more brown color and indoors it gets more of a gree.
Woody succulent shrub native to Madagascar. Nice specimen plant for zones 10b-11. Prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade. Soil should be dry to moist so you might want to consider allowing the soil to thoroughly dry between waterings as over watering can destroy the plant otherwise it can thrive on neglect. This plant is propagated by removing the small offsets from the base of the main plant as well as from stem cuttings.
Is this commonly known as a "Madagascan Felt Bush"?
I bought a mature bush (8') described such as this from a specialist nursery which imported the bush from Madagasca around 1970. I have only been able to propagate from felt leaves when they were ringed by tiny flowers about 1/2" in diameter and this happened only once prior to the bush dying. Attempts to grow from leaf stems or leaves since has been unsuccessful.
I have only four bushes existing in pots ( now about 15 years old )from the initial propagation when flowers bloomed on a few leaves.
On Oct 18, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:
This is a relatively fast growing Kalanchoe with large, fuzzy leaves that eventually grows into a small bonsai-like tree in So Cal. Its stems become twisted, gnarled and have an uneven texture created by the missing leaf bases as they fall off. The plant develops huge, folded, thick, fuzzy, irregularly shaped succulent leaves that vary from a dull green, to silvery or coppery. I think this is one of the more fascinating Kalanchoes and is a great specimen for a xeriscape garden.
On Sep 20, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:
The Velvet Leaf Kalanchoe will grow in most any condition. Full sun to full shade. Shade will keep it mostly gray/green, while full sun will bring out the cinnamon colored brown "velvet" that it is known for. Survives on little or no water or regular water from irrigation systems. Fallen leaves will root and produce new plants, complicated and sometimes convoluted inflorescence.
On Feb 22, 2003, DougC from Los Angeles, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:
I have grown Kalanchoe beharensis outdoors for many years. I live in Sunset Zone 21, and the evening temperatures rarely fall below 8°C (48°F). My K. beharensis is now roughly 4.5 ft.
This genus need lots of room to grow, and very easy to replant from stem cuttings. I haven't tried to propagate from leaf cuttings, but sure it can be done. Important point, these succulents are native of tropical Africa, they cannot tolerate freezing tempertures. As for soil, I have mine in a very large clay pot, the soil mixture I use is "Miracle-Grow", mixed with pumice and several parts of cactus mix. They do need a porous/well draining soil. Misting is fine from time to time. If I learn anymore, will pass it along.
Besides the kalanchoe beharensis, there are several other Kalanchoe plant varieties in this genus that you may want to try, including the following:
You may not want to plant Kalanchoe beharensis outdoors unless you live in a suitable region, such as Arizona or parts of California, Texas and southern Florida.
In cooler or wetter regions, the plant does better indoors or in containers so move plants indoors when the weather gets cooler.
When in a container, the plant is a great ornamental piece and can be placed in full or partial sunlight.
The thick, triangular, silver-brown velvety leaves make for interesting looks in the landscape.