Acalypha - Chenille Plant
DESCRIPTION: These are tender shrubs that are mostly native to the tropics. The only one worth cultivating for its flowers is the Chenille Plant, Acalypha hispida (A. Sanderiana). In the summer and fall this plant produces long tassels of bright red flowers. There is also a white variety, alba. Other kinds are grown for their pretty foliage.
POTTING: When they are grown indoors, they need a minimum winter temperature of 55 degrees. In the far South they can be cultivated outside and in the North, colored-leaved varieties can be planted outside during the summer. The best potting compost to use should be a mixture of two parts fibrous loam, one part leaf mold, and one part well-decayed manure. The plants can grow on for several years to form large plants but new plants are usually started annually from cuttings and they'll grow 2-3 feet high.
PROPAGATION: Cuttings of the colored-leaved kinds will root easily at any time of the year. Cuttings started in September will produce good plants that can be planted in the garden the following summer. Pinch the new plants once or twice to promote bushy growth. Old plants of A. hispida growing inside should be cut down to within 12 inches of the base in February and sprayed frequently to start them into growth. When the new shoots are 3 inches long, they should be pulled off with a "heel" of branch still attached and inserted in a closed propagating case in the hothouse until they've formed roots. They should be gradually hardened off by ventilating the case. The rooted cuttings should then be potted in 4-inch pots, next in 6-inch pots and finally, in 8-inch pots. Don't pinch the shoots. Until the flower spikes have developed, keep the greenhouse humid and sprits the plants often. Afterwards it needs to be drier and cooler. Special care should be taken to prevent moisture from collecting in the flower spikes. From spring to autumn, water can be applied often, but throughout the winter, only when the soil becomes quite dry.
A. Godseffiana (leaves are green with white perimeters and its variety heterophylla has very divided leaves of the same coloring);
A. Wilkensiana (varieties are musaica, green and red leaves, Macafeana, red, crimson, and bronze leaves, macrophylla, russet-brown leaves, obovata, bronze-green leaves with pink edges, and marginata, pink-edged leaves).
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