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ACALYPHA hispida

Image of Acalypha hispida

James Burghardt

Family

Euphorbiaceae

Botanical Name

ACALYPHA hispida

Plant Common Name

Caterpillar Plant, Chenille Plant, Red-hot Cat's Tail

General Description

Dramatically filled with long, drooping catkins of velvety red flowers during the warm months, chenille plant is one of the tropical world's prettiest plants. It is a heat-loving broadleaf evergreen shrub native to Malaysia and New Guinea. It is grown for its pendulous fluffy red flowers that look much like fuzzy caterpillars. Interestingly, the French word for caterpillar is "chenille", the reason for its common name. Plants are dioecious - either male or female in gender, and only the showier-blooming female plants are used ornamentally. Flowers are subtended by teethed medium to dark green oval leaves; flowers continue to appear intermittently throughout the growing season.

Plant chenille plant in moist, well-drained soil (ideally a fertile sand) and provide full sun to partial shade for best results. Protect from arid air. Frost tender, light frosts may kill back the plant completely to the roots, making it rejuvenate in spring like a perennial. It's an excellent plant for hanging baskets and containers when small, and in the rear of a mixed border. It may also be grown as a specimen in tropical regions. Heavy summer rains or tropical storm winds readily break upright branches. Excessive watering often leads to the flower to becomeing blackened with mildew. Selection 'Alba' has flowers that are powdery pink.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 6

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    6'-15' / 1.8m - 4.6m

  • Width

    5'-9' / 1.5m - 2.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia, Melanesia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Red, Crimson

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Hanging Basket, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No