kalanchoe daigremontiana: Growing and caring guide


Today, at Gardenprue, we bring you a very special plant,  kalanchoe daigremontiana . Its shapes do not leave anyone indifferent, and it produces new shoots on the underside of its leaves, a strange quality that makes it stand out from other plants. We can have it outdoors or indoors. If you know her, it will be because of her miraculous attributions against cancer. We are going to put some common sense about it and above all we are going to see how it is grown with the sole purpose of being ornamental.

Normally, although it depends on the area where we are, it is known as the devil’s backbone (it may be due to the particular shape of its leaves and its strange sprouting) or Aranto. Scientifically it is known as  kalanchoe daigremontiana. 

If you don’t remember, in Gardenprue we wrote an article some time ago talking about a relative of hers,  Kalanchoe blossfeldiana. Here you can see how it is grown.

The strange and particular thing about this plant are its leaves. The underside emits shoots with new seedlings , with great growth power. In fact, if one falls onto a substrate, it quickly generates roots. What’s more, as you can see in the photo below, some of the suckers are already taking rootlets trying to find a substrate to grab onto.

It is not a large succulent, although if it is well cared for it can grow up to a meter in height. Another interesting and curious thing about this plant is that it blooms when it feels like it. Sometimes it never even blooms. It is a totally intriguing fact of botany.

With regard to its scientific classification, it belongs to the Crassulaceae family   (as  Crassula ovat a ), and to the genus K alanchoe.

Photography: CrazyD



It is a plant that adapts well as an indoor and outdoor plant. In fact, in the initial photo you can see how it has been grown in pots (for this, you will have to choose the pot well ).

That said, it is logical to say that they can adapt to be grown in full sun or in the shade. It is indifferent.

You have to be careful with the cold, since this crassulaceous does not support intense cold, when it is prolonged. If you have it in a pot and you have it on the terrace, when cold is expected, it is better to introduce them inside the house.

Yes indeed! Light is important. Outside there will be no problems (generally), but at home you must make sure that they are in areas where light enters, next to a window, for example.


It is preferable to have a light and loose soil. We can achieve that, when preparing the substrate, mixing soil, compost and sand, in equal parts. We forget about heavy earth and clays.

Drainage is important so the soft soil will do its job if you grow Kalanchoe daigremontiana  outdoors. Inside, make sure the pot drains well and there is no standing water in the dish.

How do you do that? From the photograph courtesy of Eduardo .

This technique is valid for all pots, including kalanchoe daigremontiana


The genus K alanchoe  shows good resistance to drought. Simply what they do is stop their growth and conserve the humidity that they house inside as much as possible. The leaves, being succulent, conserve moisture very well inside. Remember the acid metabolism of crassulaceae (CAM).

However, if we have it at home, we will provide periodic watering, ensuring that the land never runs dry. Sometimes we have already talked about xerogardening . This type of succulent plants usually come in handy in these gardens. Our Mediterranean climate is ideal for these types of plants.

[alert style = »green»] If you see that the surface layer of the earth is dry, it can lead us to error. You have to insert a pointed object (a finger will do) and check the humidity inside. This way we will not water excessively and we will rot the plant. [/ Alert]

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
Photography: JMK


If there is one thing that stands out above all about  kalanchoe daigremontiana, it  is what is said that it can be an effective remedy against cancer. Let’s look at the “scientific” aspect of the matter.

[alert style = »green»] The University of Malaga , in Spain, has carried out studies on the properties of the devil’s backbone for the treatment of certain lymphoblastic leukemias. [/ alert]

It is a very risky thing to say that the Kalanchoe “cures cancer” just like that and not based on anything. In popular culture word of mouth is too quick and unfounded many times. How many times have you heard or been told “Take this, it is going very well for …” If we analyze the phrase, there is no dose, nor how to take it, nor the frequency … (which would be the minimum you would have to know if you really have the effect that is mentioned; I am not talking about the Kalanchoe, I mean in general).

Let’s say that it is shown that there is a molecule that Kalanchoe produces that actually had a proven success rate for a certain type of cancer. Don’t you think there would be companies already growing it, extracting it, testing it and finally making a drug? Is a laboratory going to lose the opportunity to earn millions and also with the Machiavellian intention that the population get sick knowing that there is a solution?

In fact, in America, Africa and Asia, where traditional medicine is very present, K alanchoe daigremontiana  to treat diseases related to cell disease, such as cancer, although there is nothing proven in this regard. 

Kalanchoe daigremontiana is basically known to produce very specific molecules called bufadienolides which are actually steroids. Go tell someone about natural medicine that this Kalanchoe produces steroids. It gives him a “penterreque” (fright) when he hears it.

Furthermore, the scientific information regarding bufadienolides, yields interesting results in “in vitro” tests and in some rodents, also taking into account that these bufadienolides are extracted from a toad and not from Kalanchoe. Certain bufadienolides have been isolated from other hybridized Kalanchoes with similar results, but it has never been demonstrated (mainly because there are no serious trials) and also with the active ingredient very well dosed and isolated.

All this is told much better by Fernando Frías in this article on the Naukas blog , where he has made an exhaustive bibliographic review on the matter.

Those websites that say that the results are wonderful in patients with terminal cancer, please I ask you to at least make that bibliographic review as extensive and complete as the one that Frías makes us with the cases and scientific bases in this regard. We will be happy to take a look. On the other hand, we must take into account the placebo effect, which does exist and there are all kinds of very interesting studies in this regard, but playing with cancer is another story.

Of course we believe that “eating” the plant like this “tuntun” as recommended can be dangerous, mainly because most of  the plant is toxic . These uncontrolled active ingredients can lead to serious conditions. Even if you find pages that tell how to take it, with its dose and frequency, honestly contrast the sources. I could be writing in this blog right now that eating crushed granite for breakfast removes acne and I would be so wide and without any scientific review about it. Would you believe it “bluntly”?

Recommending or trying to substitute chemotherapy for an alternative medicine is enormously dangerous and can end the life of the patient as we have seen not long ago with the case of the young man who died having abandoned chemo in favor of an alternative treatment. The “healer” was tried for reckless murder.

So let’s leave the medicinal part to the experts to focus on the purely ornamental and to have one more crassulaceous one.

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