If you are looking for a tropical shrub to grow in your home or garden, Acalypha hispida a.k.a. Chenille Plant is a great option.
Acalypha hispida is a species of tropical shrub in the family Euphorbiaceae, the family that includes many ornamental plants such as croton, poinsettia, and castor bean. It is commonly known as the “chenille plant” or “red-hot cat tail” due to its long, fuzzy, bright red flowers that resemble the furry tail of a cat or a caterpillar.
The chenille plant is native to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, but is now widely cultivated in tropical regions around the world as an ornamental plant. This attractive ornamental thrives in tropical environments, but it can also be grown as an annual in other regions. Considering the fact that it is quite sensitive to cold temperatures, you can bring the plant indoors during the winter months or simply grow it as an indoor houseplant.
Chenille plant is a light lover and it will be grateful if you provide it with plenty of bright indirect light during winter. However, it is quite common for the plant to decline during the cold months, but it will revive in the spring when the lighting conditions improve. Once the danger of frost passes, you can move the plant outdoors.
As it matures, the plant tends to become rangy and woody and it produces fewer flowers. Some gardeners prefer to take cuttings from the original plant and grow new plants each spring to fully enjoy their unique-looking blooms.
Acalypha hispida can grow up to 10 ft (3 m) tall and prefers well-draining soil, high humidity, and partial shade. It is well-suited for warm, humid environments and can be grown both indoors and outdoors. While the plant is primarily grown for its attractive flowers, it has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.
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|Botanical Name||Acalypha hispida, Acalypha sanderi|
|Common Name||Chenille plant, Red-hot cat tail, Red Cattail, Foxtails, Monkey Tail|
|Plant Type||Tropical shrub|
|Mature Size||1.5 m to 4.5 m (5-15 feet) tall, 1 m to 2.5 m (3-8 feet) spread|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, moist, fertile, loamy soil|
|Soil pH||Slightly acid, Neutral, Slightly-alkaline|
|Flower Color||Deep pink, bright red|
|Hardiness Zones||10-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South Pacific, Malaysia and New Guinea|
About Chenille Plant
- Acalypha hispida is primarily grown as an ornamental plant for its unique and eye-catching flowers. It can be used as a border plant, a container plant, or as part of a mixed garden bed.
- Acalypha hispida is commonly known as the chenille plant or the red-hot cat’s tail due to the unique shape and colour of its flowers. In addition to its common names, This plant has various other cultural names, including “Imbe” in Cameroon, “Ajojo” in Yoruba, and “Hulu Belangkas” in Malay.
- Acalypha hispida is a sacred plant in the Balinese Hindu culture, where it is used in various religious ceremonies and offerings. The plant is also believed to have protective properties against evil spirits.
- The young leaves of the plant can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable in some cultures, particularly in the Philippines.
- The plant is sometimes used in traditional medicine for its purported anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, although it should be used with caution due to its toxicity.
- This plant is toxic for pets, especially cats and dogs. The chenille plant contains a substance called hydrocyanic acid, which can cause vomiting and respiratory distress if ingested in large quantities. The fuzzy flower spikes of the plant may also cause skin irritation or allergic reactions upon contact.
- You can grow chenille plants alongside plants with similar environmental requirements such as calibrachoa, coleus, and sweet potato vine.
Chenille Plant Features: An Overview
- The leaves are simple, alternate, and ovate in shape, with a pointed tip and toothed edges. They can range in colour from green to reddish-brown and are usually 3-5 inches (7-12 cm) long.
- The most distinctive feature of Acalypha hispida is its flowers, which are long, pendulous, and fuzzy. They grow in dense clusters along a spike that can be up to 12 inches (30 cm) long, and the individual flowers are bright red or pink in colour.
- The stem of the chenille plant is woody and upright, with multiple branching points that can give the plant a bushy appearance. The stems can be hairy and can range in colour from green to reddish-brown.
- The red-hot cat tail is a medium-sized shrub that can reach a height of 3-5 feet and a width of 2-3 feet. It can be pruned to maintain a smaller size.
- Acalypha hispida has been hybridized with other Acalypha species to create new cultivars with different flower colours and shapes. Some popular cultivars include Acalypha hispida ‘Alba’ with white flowers and Acalypha hispida ‘Schizandra’ with double flowers.
Growing Chenille Plant
You can grow Acalypha hispida both indoors as a houseplant and outdoors as an ornamental plant for its unique and eye-catching flowers.
In terms of lighting, the red-hot cat’s tail prefers bright, indirect light but can also tolerate partial shade. It is important to avoid direct sunlight, as this can scorch the leaves. If growing the plant indoors, place it near a south-facing window where it can receive bright, indirect light for most of the day. If growing the plant outdoors, provide partial shade during the hottest part of the day.
Chenille plant prefers a well-draining soil mix that is rich in organic matter. The soil should be kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. A pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 is ideal for this plant.
Temperature: Acalypha hispida prefers warm temperatures between 60°F (15°C) and 85°F (29°C). It is sensitive to cold temperatures and cannot tolerate frost. The plant can be grown indoors or outdoors, but outdoor plants should be protected from cold temperatures in the winter.
Acalypha hispida can be fertilized during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can cause the plant to become leggy and produce fewer flowers. And when it comes to pruning, this plant can become leggy if not trimmed regularly. Prune the plant in the spring to maintain its shape and encourage bushier growth. Remove any dead or damaged branches as needed.
When grown indoors, place the plant near a south-facing window where it can receive plenty of bright, indirect light. If the plant is not getting enough light, it may become leggy and fail to produce flowers.
Keep the plant away from cold drafts, air conditioning units, and heating vents, as these can cause stress to the plant. Acalypha hispida thrives in humid environments. If your indoor environment is dry, consider using a humidifier or placing a tray of water near the plant to increase the humidity around it.
If you decide to keep it outdoors, place it in a warm, sheltered location with partial shade. Avoid planting it in areas that receive direct sunlight for extended periods, as this can scorch the leaves and flowers. The red-hot cat’s tail prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.
Amend the soil with compost or other organic matter before planting to improve its fertility and drainage. With proper care and attention to its growing conditions, Acalypha hispida can thrive outdoors and provide a stunning display of colour and texture. It is a great choice for anyone looking to add a unique and beautiful plant to their garden.
Planting Chenille Plant
The chenille plant prefers a location with bright, indirect light and well-draining soil. It can tolerate some direct sunlight but can scorch in full sun. The soil mix should be rich in organic matter and has good drainage. If planting in a container, choose a pot with drainage holes and fill it with a well-draining soil mix. Before planting, water the Acalypha hispida thoroughly to moisten the roots and soil.
The next step is to dig a hole in the soil that is slightly larger than the root ball of the plant. Place the plant in the hole and backfill it with soil, making sure the plant is level with the soil surface. Gently tamp down the soil around the plant and water it again. After that, add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to help retain moisture and prevent weed growth.
- LIGHT: Chenille plant grows best in full sun to partial shade but avoid planting it outdoors where it receives direct sun in the late afternoon.
- SOIL: Chenille plant grows in a range of soils, including sand, clay, and loam. Chenille plant can adapt to soil pH values between 6.0 to 7.5.
- TALL: In tropical climates up to 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide; much smaller when grown in containers and indoors.
- BLOOM PERIOD: Chenille plant can be everblooming if it receives the warmth, light, and nutrients it requires. Cold temperatures and lack of sunlight prevent blooming.
- TIPS: If you're growing chenille in a container, bring it indoors when nights dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms.
- LIGHT & SOIL: Performs best in full sun to part shade, in fertile, humus-rich, moist, well-drained soils. If grown indoors, plant in a loam-less potting compost in full or filtered light.
- TALL: Grows up to 12-18 in. tall and wide.
- BLOOM PERIOD: Free-flowering, the blossoms are produced sporadically throughout the year.
- USES: Easy to grow, it is excellent in containers, hanging baskets, as a houseplant or seasonal annual.
- USDA ZONE: Acalypha reptans do best in USDA zones 9 to 11.
- HARDINESS ZONE.9-11
- GROW.There's no need to bury them, simply scatter seeds over the surface of the soil. Seeds will sprout in 20 to 30 days.
- WHEN TO PLANT.Spring
- TALL.Grows up to 12-18 in. tall and wide (30-45 cm).
- USE.Easy to grow, it is excellent in containers, hanging baskets, as a houseplant or seasonal annual.
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You can fertilize the chenille plant with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season to encourage healthy growth and flower production. Also, Acalypha hispida can become leggy if not pruned regularly, prune the plant in the spring to maintain its shape and encourage bushier growth. Remove any dead or damaged branches as needed.
Watering Chenille Plant
Acalypha hispida requires regular watering to keep the soil moist, especially during the growing season. Therefore, before watering the plant, check the soil moisture level by inserting your finger into the soil. If the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water. When you water the plant, make sure to water deeply so that the water reaches the root system.
Avoid watering too frequently, as this can cause the soil to become waterlogged and lead to root rot. Also, a useful tip is to use room temperature water when watering Acalypha hispida, as cold water can shock the roots and cause damage to the plant.
Another important tip is to not let the soil dry out completely. As the chenille plant prefers moist soil, avoid letting the soil dry out completely between waterings. However, overwatering can lead to root rot, so be sure to allow the top inch of soil to dry out slightly between watering.
Adjust the watering frequency based on the season: your red-hot cat tail may require more frequent watering during the growing season, which is typically from spring to fall. During the winter, the plant may require less frequent watering.
Propagating Chenille Plant
If you want to have more Acalypha hispida plants or you are thinking that this plant could be a great present for one plant enthusiast friend, you’ll be happy to learn that this plant can be easily propagated through stem cuttings.
Here are the steps you need to follow: Choose a stem from your red-hot cat tail that is at least 6 inches (15 cm) long and has several leaves. Make sure the stem is healthy and free of pests and diseases. Using a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears, cut the stem just below a leaf node. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem.
You can dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone powder or liquid to encourage root growth. This step is optional but can increase the chances of success. Plant the cutting in a well-draining soil mix, making sure the cut end is buried at least an inch deep.
Water the soil lightly to settle it around the cutting. Cover the cutting with a clear plastic bag or a plastic container to create a humid environment that will help the cutting retain moisture.
Place the cutting in a bright, indirect light location. Avoid direct sunlight, as this can scorch the cutting. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Check the soil moisture regularly and water as needed. After several weeks, check the cutting for signs of new growth and roots. Once the cutting has developed a healthy root system, it can be transplanted to a larger container or planted in the garden.
Chenille Plant Pests and Diseases
The chenille plant can be susceptible to a variety of pests and diseases. Here are some common pests and diseases that can affect your plant:
Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause leaves to turn yellow and die. They are common in dry indoor environments.
Aphids: These small, soft-bodied insects can suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to curl and distort.
Mealybugs: These insects feed on the sap of the plant and produce a white, powdery substance that can cover the leaves. Scale insects: These insects can appear as small bumps on the leaves and stems. They can cause yellowing and leaf drop.
Root rot: This is a fungal disease that can be caused by overwatering or poor drainage. It can cause the roots to rot, leading to wilting and eventual death of the plant.
Leaf spot: This fungal disease can cause brown spots on the leaves, which can lead to defoliation.
Powdery mildew: This fungal disease can cause a white, powdery substance to form on the leaves. It can cause stunted growth and yellowing of the leaves.
To prevent these issues, it is important to provide good care, including proper watering, fertilization and air circulation. If pests or diseases do appear, they can be treated with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil for pests and fungicides for diseases. It is important to carefully follow the instructions on the product label.
Acalypha hispida a.k.a chenille plant is a beautiful and unique plant that is prized for its long, showy, red-coloured catkins. This tropical shrub is native to Asia and is well-suited to warm, humid environments. It can be grown both indoors and outdoors, making it a versatile plant for any gardening enthusiast. With proper care and attention to its soil, temperature, light, and water requirements, a red-hot cat tail can thrive and provide a stunning display of colour and texture.
While it can be susceptible to pests and diseases, these issues can be managed with proper cultural care and timely treatment. Overall, the chenille plant is an excellent choice for anyone looking to add a unique and beautiful plant to their collection.
Are you growing Acalypha hispida a.k.a chenille plant in your home or garden? Let us know in the comments!