Calico kitten plant: Everything to know about

The Calico kitten plant is a versatile and showy plant that can be grown indoors as an attractive houseplant or outdoors in some climates.

It’s not difficult to nurture this plant into a fully mature focal point from a hanging basket, but there are a few things you need to know to grow them successfully.

calico kitten plant

They’re not the hardiest plant and require careful nurturing, but the requirements are easy to fulfill if you know what they are.

Our guide to the Calico kitten plant gives you all the information you’ll need about the plant, its origins, varieties, care, propagation, and other interesting facts.

The origin of the Calico kitten plant

The Calico kitten plant grows wild in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. Most of the plants imported for sale originate in this area.

Calico kitten plants grow wild throughout the world. They thrive in hot arid regions.  

The botanical name is Crassula. The Calico kitten comes in two main varieties: Crassula marginalis rubra variegata, and Crassula pellucida ‘Variegata, with dozens of sub-varieties, but the characteristics are similar among the related plants.

Description of the Calico kitten plant

The name Crassula is descriptive of the leaves of the Calico kitten plant. Crassus means “thick” in Latin.

The leaves are fleshy yet delicate, growing in clusters that follow a trailing stem that continues to grow in length as the plant ages.

It puts off trailing tendrils that act as ground cover outside or cascades in hanging baskets indoors.

These plants grow slowly with a maximum height between 2 to 4 inches, but they spread up to twelve inches. Some taller varieties can reach heights up to 6 inches.

The leaves range from green and cream in variegated types with pinks, purples, and whites. The plant produces white flowers that are shaped like stars when it is stressed.

The most popular strains feature pink-edged leaves. Some varieties grow completely pink leaves. Increasing the amount of sunlight turns the leaves into more vibrant red colors.

Planting zones

Calico kitten plants may be grown outside in zones 9-11. The plant can tolerate temperatures that drop slightly below freezing with mild frost for short periods in other zones.

The plants may be grown in containers and brought indoors when the temperatures dip below freezing.

You can plant them in any zone as an indoor plant. The ideal temperature for the Calico kitten is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil requirements

Calico kitten plants require soil that is gritty or sandy. The planting medium should be at least 50% grit for fast drainage.

Crassula, like other succulents, has sensitive roots that are vulnerable to root rot when they sit in soil with high moisture content.

Outdoor plants thrive in sandy or rocky conditions with good drainage. They thrive on a cactus mix potting soil with perlite when grown indoors in containers.

Pots must have good drainage, so choose a planter that has holes drilled in the bottom.

Need for Sunlight

The Calico kitten plant grows prolifically in hot arid regions where the sunlight is bright and in partial shade.

Crassula thrives in full sun, but the plant can tolerate partial shade. When planting outdoors, choose a location that receives at least six hours of full sunlight.

The Calico kitten may be placed in a sunny window when grown indoors in pots. Exposure to bright sunlight brings out more vibrant pink and red colors in the leaves.

You should rotate indoor Calico kitten plants to ensure that all sides of the plant receive equal amounts of sunlight to achieve uniformity in size, shape, and color.

Irrigation Need

Once the Calico kitten plant’s roots get established, it needs minimal watering.

It’s essential to avoid overwatering to avoid root rot. The amount and frequency of water required to depend on the temperature and amount of humidity in the air.

Stick your finger in the soil and go down a few inches. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water. Mature plants usually require watering once a week or sometimes less often.

When the Calico kitten plant’s growth slows, or if the stems become thinner with more room in between its legs, it probably needs to be watered more frequently. Decrease the frequency of watering during winter months.

Should you fertilize a Calico kitten plant?

Calico kitten plants need the nourishment of fertilizer. Fertilize plants grown indoors in containers three to four times a year. Avoid fertilizing the plants in winter. Save it for the growing season during Spring, Summer, and Early Fall.

It’s best to use a general-purpose or specialty water-soluble fertilizer mix for houseplants and prepare the solution to half-strength.

You can find commercial fertilizer preparations for cacti and succulents in liquid concentrate at most home and garden centers.

Remember to dilute the mixture to half the recommended strength.

Fertilize as directed on the package to provide the best conditions for the Calico kitten plant to thrive and grow faster, but avoid overfertilizing. Too much fertilizer will damage the roots and eventually kill them.

A good rule of thumb is to fertilize once a month from May through August, but take a break from the fertilizer for indoor and outdoor plants during the hottest weeks of summer to avoid damaging the plant.

Outdoor Calico kitten plants do not require commercial fertilizer because they receive nutrition from the soil.

Adding compost to the soil can give them a healthy boost during the growing season that will supplement the plant’s nutritional needs enough.

If the soil is poor, you may fertilize a Calico kitten plant that grows outdoors by following the recommendations for indoor plants.

How to propagate a Calico kitten plant?

Calico kitten plants can be propagated in five ways. It’s easy to create new plants from an adult plant.

The best way is to cut a stem from the plant. Stick the cutting in the soil and keep it dry until it sprouts roots and grows as a separate plant.

While most new cuttings require moisture, it’s not the best option for the Calico kitten plant and other succulents. Instead of watering, mist the new cuttings or plants until the root system is established.

Cuttings are the easiest and most efficient way to propagate new plants. Cut the stem below a leaf node. The Calico kitten plant has brittle stems that break easily. when a stem breaks, stick it in the soil to create a new plant.

The second method for propagating new plants is to divide the mature plants. The best time to take leaf cuttings is in the early spring through late summer months.

Calico kitten plants may be grown from seeds harvested from spent blooms that mature into seed pods. Sprinkle seeds on the top of the soil in an indoor pot and cover them with a fine layer of soil.

Mist with water occasionally until the seeds germinate and begin to grow plants. You may also plant offshoots that grow from the base of a mature Calico kitten plant to grow new plants.

When propagating new Calico kitten plants you should use a mix of cactus potting soil with perlite.

Keep the soil moister than mature plants, until it is established. Another way to propagate calico kitten plants is to pull off a thick leaf.

Allow it to dry or harden for a day or two, then place the hardened area where it was twisted off the parent plant in soil, mist, and wait for roots to develop.

Winter your Calico kitten plant

Crassula, or Calico kitten plants need to go through a period called wintering. Wintering involves keeping the plant in a cool and dry location during the winter season.

Place the plant in an area where the temperatures range between 36 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit from November through February to encourage it to bloom in the spring.

If your Calico kitten is a houseplant, move it to a sunny window in a room that can be kept cooler during that period.

Transferring Calico kitten plants from indoors to outdoors

Calico kitten plants that have been started or wintered indoors should not be planted outside without a hardening-off period.

They’re accustomed to an even temperature and a different level of sunlight. The plants are susceptible to shock from temperature and environmental extremes.

Start by introducing the Crassula to the outdoors gradually for a few hours a day.

Increase the number of hours the plant is outside until it becomes acclimatized to the natural sunlight and temperature fluctuations from morning through evening hours. It may take a week or ten days to prepare the plant for the transfer.

Choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight with sandy or well-drained, rocky soil. Follow the care recommendations outlined above.

How and when to repot a Calico kitten plant?

Most Calico kitten plants that are healthy and growing at a normal rate will outgrow indoor contains in approximately one year.

Roots grow beneath the surface but you won’t see their growth. It’s best to re-pot this plant annually to avoid plants from becoming root-bound. Remember that the Calico kitten plant is delicate and the stems break easily.

Select a larger pot with exceptional drainage. Fill the pot with a mixture of sandy soil and other materials recommended for succulents. Carefully uproot the Calico kitten plant, taking care not to break the delicate stems.

Place the roots in the soil and pour more of the soil over the top to cover the roots completely.

Fill the pot with soil an inch or two from the rim. After you’ve filled the pot, give it a drink of water and set the plant in a bright sunny place. It’s best to report Calico kitten plants at the beginning of Spring.

Common problems with the Calico kitten plant

Calico kitten plants grown indoors must be gently cared for to avoid breaking the delicate stems.

Housepets can break the stems if they have access to the container. Keep it out of the reach of cats, dogs, and small children.

Calico kitten plants are prone to root rot. Excessive amounts of moisture will cause the roots to rot and will kill the plant.

Make sure that water never stagnates around the roots or keeps them soaked by keeping the plant in sandy soil with exceptional drainage and not overwater. Let the soil dry out in between watering.

Calico kitten plants are prone to sunburn. Too much heat or direct sunlight could make the plant sick, burn the leaves and kill it. It needs plenty of light but you can overdo it. The plant needs the ideal balance of light and partial light.

If the plant begins to wilt or show signs of burning, move it to a location that gets less heat and direct sunlight. If the Calico kitten plant does not get enough sunlight it will shrivel, then die.

If you notice patches of leathery brown on the leaves, the plant has likely been overwatered. Reduce the frequency and amount of water.

The pests that commonly affect Calico kitten succulents are aphids and mealybugs.

These pests feed on the sap of the plant. The best way to rid the plant of these pests is to spray a fifty-fifty mix of rubbing alcohol and water on the plant. You may also use a commercial insecticide spray to kill the insects.

Final thoughts

Calico kitten plants, also known as Crassula varieties are succulents with beautiful and vibrant colors. They’re ideal for brightening up rock gardens or for ground covers in planting zones 9 through 11.

The plant is the most popular as a houseplant, suspended from hanging baskets that allow the cascading arms of lovely green, yellow and pink leaves to dangle.

The Calico kitten requires some knowledge of its nutritional and care needs to grow the most beautiful and healthy versions.

Our guide provides you with everything you need to know about this lovely and decorative little plant. We wish you the best of success in your adventure and hope you find the information helpful.

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