The Copper leaf plant, botanically called Acalypha wilkesiana [ak-uh-LY-fuh, wilk-see-AY-nuh], is an evergreen subtropical shrub.
This colorful Acalypha plant along with its cousin the chenille plant belongs to Acalyphinae a subtribe of Euphorbiaceae (a flowering plant species of the spurge family) and native in Vanuatu and certain parts of the Pacific Island.
As the name suggests, copper plants develop coppery red foliage.
However, the vibrant shrub comes in many varieties with foliages in different colors – pink, white, and green.
The plant has two common names as follows:
- Jacob’s Coat
Copper Plant Acalypha Care
The common name copper-leaf does not adequately describe this Acalypha, as It Is highly variable with some leaves showing shades of brown, crimson, orange, white or other markings that are not copper.
In South Florida, It is commonly grown outdoors like a shrub. This tells you that it needs warmth and moisture.
Size and Growth
Tricolor Copper leaf plants are a fast-growing perennial, reaching 3′ to 5’ feet tall and 1′ to 2’ feet wide.
When exposed to full sun or light partial shade, the plant develops fully with vibrant rusty red foliage color.
Flowering and Fragrance
The flower color of the perennial plant is quite inconspicuous in comparison to its intense, vibrant leaf color.
They are pale and spiky and thus attract little attraction. The male flowers are long and floppy than their female counterparts.
Usually, the female flowers are small to the extent of being almost invisible.
Even though the plant is beautiful to look at, it has a vicious taste and an unpleasant smell.
Light and Temperature
In South Florida Copper plants prefer direct sunlight or partial sun for their development.
Full, bright light helps make the plant appear rich and alive.
The coppery plant also thrives best indoors, in the areas with maximum sunlight.
Whether placed indoors or outdoors, the growing temperature should be above 55° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C).
In the USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 12, the perennial plant spreads all summer long.
Watering and Feeding
The evergreen shrub enjoys a humid environment to grow and bloom.
During dry weather conditions, regular watering is needed. to prevent the root system from withering.
Apart from consistent watering, the plant needs fertilizers for its healthy growth.
Use a good balanced 10-10-10 granular fertilizer in the spring, summer, and early fall or a liquid food every two weeks during the growing season.
However, ensure not to overwater the plant. Soggy soil often causes the plant to wilt.
Soil and Transplanting
This houseplant develops best in fertile, organic soil. Make sure the soil is made up of a good amount of compost.
When provided with rich soil, copper plants spread quickly. Hence, transplanting them may become crucial.
Before transplanting, water the soil thoroughly to lift it off easily.
- Dig a new hole and gently place the rootball.
- Cover it with soil and surround it with compost.
- Water frequently to keep the soil moist.
- In the case of multiple transplanting, the distance each plant at least 3’ to 5’ feet to ensure healthy growth.
Grooming and Maintenance
Copper plants grow well in a container. Ideally, they require a pot twice the size of the rootball.
The plant develops bright leaves in direct sunlight.
When growing indoors, place it near a window where it receives enough sunlight.
Also, make sure to protect the shrub from harsh winds.
Therefore, keep the plant in a partial shade location.
Since it is a fast-growing shrub, it may need hard pruning.
Prune the plant in late spring.
How to Propagate Acalypha Wilkesiana
Propagation of copper plants is ideally done through stem tip cutting.
Cut a small shoot of the plant and dip it in hormone rooting powder for two to three minutes.
Plant it in a pot containing a mixture of peat and coarse sand.
Add in manure or compost to balance the nutrition level.
Cover the pot with a plastic bag at 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).
Remove the bag upon the sight of new growth.
Acalypha Wilkesiana Pests and Diseases
The copper plant is vulnerable to many kinds of pests including mealybugs, and red spider mites to name a few.
The leaves often become pale and sticky when mites attack the plant.
On the other hand, the plant suffers from growth retardation or fungal infections due to mealy bugs.
Protect the plant by removing all the damaged and discolored leaves.
Apply a malathion solution to prevent further damage.
If new leaves are green or colorless, move the plant to higher light. If the plant becomes too large, fertilize less often.
NOTE: Sometimes people think that such plants as this with variegated foliage are Inherently diseased or weak growing. With the variegated plants described here, however, the coloring seems to be a natural arrangement for attracting Insects to do the fertilizing of flowers where fragrance Is lacking.
Copper Plant Acalypha Uses
This south pacific native plant is recognized mainly for their landscape uses.
They serve as a beautiful accent by the entry, around tall trees, and along a blank wall in the yard or garden.
They also elevate the beauty of driveways, walkways, porches, decks, and patios with their lovely presence.
The plant also helps accentuate the indoor beauty with its intense colors and features.
They look good paired with chenille plants.