Chenille Plant Care: Growing The Red Hot Cat Tails Acalphya Plant

The chenille plant (Acalypha) comes from the genus Acalypha part of the spurge family Euphorbiaceae like the poinsettia plant and colorful Crotons.

The original plants are native to the tropics, with most of the species coming from the Americas.

The copper-leaf plant Acalypha wilkesiana pronounced [ak-uh-LY-fuh wilk-see-AY-nuh] includes several species.

The most popular varieties feature green, pink, or black-crested leaves.

Fuzzy red flowers of Acalypha Hispida

It is a small plant with waxy leaves that may eventually grow into a good-sized shrub.

Depending on the variety that you choose, common names may include:

  • Copper leaf
  • Joseph’s coat (Alternanthera is also called Josephs coat)
  • Three-seeded mercury

The colorful, nettle-like leaves are the main highlight of this interesting set of hybrids. Here are the plant care tips needed to give this plant a good home.

Other Acalypha varieties include:

Acalypha Hispida

What we call the Chenille plant features fuzzy, long hanging, dangling, bright red flower spikes that look like tails of a dozen chenille cats!

Named for the bloom textures the foxtail or red hot cat’s tail is a colorful houseplant that flowers year round.

Provide high light, to keep plants blooming and in good color.

Acalypha Pendula

Firetail Chenille Plant is great grown in hanging baskets, and surprisingly winter hardy.

A summer flowering perennial with small, fuzzy green leaves and trailing, red cattails.

Acalypha Chenille Plant Care

Size and Growth

Acalyphas are commonly kept in small pots to manage growth, but they can achieve larger sizes when allowed to grow in a large container or garden bed.

The plant produces small, bushy foliage with brightly colored leaves. The most popular varieties include:

  • Ceylon – green, curly leaves
  • Macafeeana – pink and green leaves
  • Haleakala – black-crested leaves

These plants grow throughout the entire year, instead of going dormant in the winter. The fastest growth occurs during the summer.

Flowering and Fragrance

This plant isn’t grown for its flowers, which are small and not always easy to detect. In fact, most people trim the flowers before they wither.

Light and Temperature

The acalyphas are tropical plants. They prefer lots of bright sunlight and even tolerate full sun without scorching the leaves.

For outdoor growth, the plants are considered winter hardy to USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11.

In most areas of North America, acalyphas should be grown indoors where it may survive at normal room temperature.

While the plant can survive indoors, it should never be kept in a room that drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

TIP: Homes tend to get dry during the winter. To keep the plant from drying out without overwatering, mist the leaves every few days.

To ensure that the plant gets enough sunlight, place it in a room or porch with south-facing or west-facing windows.

Watering and Feeding

These plants don’t like dry conditions. It should receive plenty of water throughout the year, including the winter.

When the plant doesn’t get enough water, the leaves start to droop.

If kept in a container, set the container on a large saucer, which helps create a reservoir for storing excess water.

Liquid fertilizer can be used with each watering to encourage thicker, healthier growth.

Soil and Transplanting

Transplanting is recommended each year, to keep the top of the plant and the root system balanced.

Use rich, porous soil when transplanting.

The best time to transplant is March or April, which is also the best time to consider grooming the plant.

Maintenance and Grooming

The plant can be groomed to keep it small and bushy. Never trim the plant during the winter.

Wait until early spring so the new shoots can start growing quickly and filling in the trimmed areas.

Propagating Chenille Acalyphas

Propagating the plant by cuttings.

  • Take cuttings in March or April, to give new plants time to grow before the warmer months come.
  • It is also important to select thick, healthy stems for the cuttings.
  • These plants tend to be soft, which makes it difficult for the cuttings to stay firm until they take root.
  • If possible, trim a stem containing three to four leaves and remove the lowest leaf.
  • Use rooting powder on the cuttings and place in small pots.
  • Cover the cuttings with plastic containing ventilation holes.
  • The cuttings should take root in about three weeks.
  • During this period, keep the plant in a room with temperatures in the mid to upper 70s.
  • If the room doesn’t get this warm, place the plant near a window.
  • The plastic can help increase the heat that the plant receives.
  • After the cuttings take root, remove the plastic
  • Move the plant to a warm, sunny room or porch.

Pests or Diseases Of Acalyphas

The acalyphas are hardy plants without any major problems other than spider mites.

The critters tend to love the small bushy plant and hide in the leaves.

After an aphid infestation, the leaves may start to turn pale and fall off.

To treat the infestation, move indoor plants outdoors and spray with a low-strength miticide. The stronger solutions may harm the plant.

When using a miticide, spray the undersides of the leaves and repeat the treatment multiple times.

Uses For Acalypha Plants

The acalyphas look great on their own in small pots. Set the plant near a window on a shelf, dresser, or end table.

The showy foliage deserves a spot where it can be seen.

If grown in a region with a suitable climate, the plant can be grown outdoors, giving it room to develop into an annual shrub.

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