Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions are often confused for one another, and it’s easy to see why! These two succulents are species of the genus Kalanchoe and both originate from the same region of Madagascar. They also both have the unique ability to produce plantlets from their leaves.
To add to the confusion, these two plants are called by dozens of other nicknames. Mother of Thousands is sometimes referred to as devil’s backbone, crown of thorns, or Mexican hat plant. Meanwhile, Mother of Millions is also called the chandelier plant due to its many long thin arms.
With so many similarities and confusing names, how are you supposed to tell these two plants apart?
The main difference between Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions is the shape of their leaves. Mother of Thousands have broad leaves that form plantlets on the outer ridges. Mother of Millions have narrow leaves that form plantlets at the very tips.
What’s the Difference between Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions?
Since they’re both leafy green kalanchoes, Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions commonly get mixed up. But these two plants have quite a few differences. Here’s how to tell them apart.
The Mother of Thousands has wide, tear-shaped leaves. These leaves have ridges all along the outer rim. Mother of Millions, on the other hand, have long, narrow tube-like leaves.
How the Leaves Grow
Leaves on a Mother of Thousands grow in pairs and constantly rotate, so the leaves underneath can get sun. On a Mother of Millions, 4-6 leaves grow at a time from a single node. They grow straight upwards so that the leaves do not touch.
This is the most telling difference between these two succulents. On a Mother of Thousands, the plantlets grow all along the outer ridges of its wide leaves. On a Mother of Millions, the plantlets only grow at the very tips of the leaves.
The color of their leaves is also a good way to differentiate these two plants. Mother of Millions has unique gray, purple, and green foliage that almost has a striped pattern. Meanwhile, Mother of Thousands is usually bright green, with very little color variation.
Why Is It Called Mother of Thousands?
The name “Mother of Thousands” comes from the tiny plantlets that grow at the edges of this plant’s leaves. In the right growing conditions, these plantlets bloom and turn into attractive flowers! But more commonly, these plantlets simply drop off in the winter when the mother plant goes dormant.
Its unique name also refers to this plant’s ability to propagate plentifully. In outdoor settings, the plantlets often fall off or get blown away in the wind. From there, they take root very easily and multiply.
Similar to Mother of Thousands, Mother of Millions gets its name from its ability to produce many plantlets. Although fun to say, these names don’t actually represent how many plantlets these kalanchoes produce.
Is Mother of Millions a Cactus?
Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands are considered succulents, but not cacti. Although the terms cactus and succulent are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. A succulent is any plant that stores water to survive prolonged droughts. Cactus plants are a unique subspecies of succulent that store water in their stem instead of leaves. This is because cacti grow in such arid environments that water would simply evaporate if the plant had leaves.
In Madagascar, periods of drought are broken up by periods of heavy rain. So although the climate is dry, native succulents can still support the growth of leaves. Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands fall into this category of native succulents and are therefore not cacti.
Tip: If you’re unsure if your succulent is a cactus or not, look at where it comes from. In general, cactus plants only naturally grow in North and South America. Many of the leafy succulents we keep as houseplants, like Mother of Millions, come from Africa.
How Do You Care for a Mother of Millions Plant?
Since these two plants are from the same genus kalanchoe, they have very similar needs.
These two plants can grow outside in warm dry climates like those found in the Southwestern US. But in general, they are better suited as indoor plants. To mimic their natural environment, keep them in a sunny spot in your home. Just make sure they have some periods of shade and aren’t exposed to blazing hot temperatures. Although they like the dryness, their leaves will still burn in too much direct sun.
Since Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands store water in their leaves, the soil can stay relatively dry. Overwatering can lead to soft, mushy leaves and root rot. You should only water them when the first two inches of soil is dry. Choose well-draining soil, such as a cactus potting mix, or mix sand into your preferred potting soil.
This succulent is well-loved by plant lovers because it is so easy to propagate. You can simply pluck plantlets from the leaf and plant them in their own pot. The roots don’t take long to grow and soon, you have a whole new plant to enjoy or give away to friends!
What is the Mother of Thousands Plant Used For?
Besides being a decorative addition to your home, Mother of Thousands also has several traditional medicinal uses.
In some parts of Madagascar, Mother of Thousands was used to help treat premature labor and infertility. Its use is considered dangerous now, due to high levels of the steroid Daigremontianin in its leaves.
It’s also used to treat a variety of other ailments, such as inflammation, diarrhea, and burns. One of the chemical compounds of Mother of Thousands called bufadienolide has also been shown to have anti-tumor properties.
Is Mother of Thousands Toxic?
Even though Mother of Thousands is commonly found in households, it is toxic for humans, pets, and livestock. This is because it contains the steroid Daigremontianin. When ingested, this steroid is known to negatively affect the muscular and nervous system, and even cause cardiac poisoning.
This toxicity can be a cause for concern because the plantlets from Mother of Thousands reproduce quickly. If they spread outside, it becomes a risk to grazing cows and other wildlife.
So if you have young children or pets who like to nibble at your houseplants, you might want to avoid the Mother of Thousands. In fact, all members of the kalanchoe family are toxic when ingested by humans or animals.
Is Mother of Millions Invasive?
Unfortunately, both Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands are highly invasive.
In Queensland, Australia, Mother of Millions is actually a class 3 restricted plant. That means it cannot be sold, given away, or released into nature (accidentally or on purpose). These harsh restrictions come from the fact that Mother of Millions has become naturalized to the region and regularly causes the death of grazing cows.
There are many initiatives underway to help control the spread of this invasive plant, such as controlled burns and spraying herbicides.
What Should I Do with My Mother of Thousands Babies?
Both of these succulents can easily become invasive in your own backyard if you do not control the spread of their plantlets. If you’re not going to plant them, it’s usually recommended that plant owners collect and dispose of any dropped plantlets. Otherwise, they can easily make their way into outdoor gardens and cause a problem.
The best way to dispose of plantlets is by bagging them and then throwing them in the garbage. It’s best to avoid throwing them in the compost, because plantlets may still take root. Burning is also a common solution for disposing of invasive plants.
Why Is My Mother of Thousands Not Producing Plantlets?
It’s possible to have the opposite problem, which is that your succulent isn’t producing plantlets at all.
Succulents are generally hard to kill, but their main weakness is overwatering! Mother of Thousands and Mother of Millions are sensitive to being overwatered. So if your plant isn’t producing plantlets, this might be the issue.
Try placing the plant in a sunny warm spot to let the soil dry out. Also, make sure your pot has proper drainage so the roots aren’t sitting in water.
Although they have many similarities, these two succulents are separate unique plants. Once you get past the confusing names, it is easy to recognize the differences.
The Mother of Millions grows plantlets from the tips whereas the Mother of Thousands grows plantlets from the outer ridges of their leaf. The Mother of Millions has tube-shaped leaves while the Mother of Thousands has wide tear-shaped leaves. Finally, the Mother of Millions grows 4-6 leaves from a single node while the Mother of Thousands leaves grow in sets of two.
If you’re going to own these fascinating species of kalanchoe, just remember that they are toxic and very invasive. But by taking proper precautions, you can safely enjoy these two beautiful plants in your home!