Carol Cloud Bailey
ACALYPHA wilkesiana 'Tahitian Gold'
Plant Common Name
Copperleaf, Tahitian Gold Acalypha, Wilkes' Acalypha
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An evergreen shrub native to the Pacific islands, copperleaf bears brightly colored foliage in shades or red, purple, bronze and green. It is a popular landscape plant in subtropical and tropical zones and planted as a houseplant or annual in cooler zones. The name, Acalypha wilkesiana, honors Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, an American Naval Officer who explored the South Pacific during the mid-1800s.
Beautiful, mottled leaves are the reason copperleaf is so popular in the garden. They are large, oval to elliptical, and alternate along the stems. The leaf edges are distinctly toothed and sometimes differ in color from the rest of the leaf. Different cultivars have different unique color combinations in shades of red, copper, bronze, purple, white and/or green. Tiny, inconspicuous, reddish flowers are produced in thin, hanging spikes called catkins. They are followed by capsule fruits filled with minuscule hard seeds.
Copperleaf grows well in both full sun or partial shade. The leaves are more brightly colored if plants are given a bit of shade during the hottest part of the day. Indoor specimens should be provided bright, indirect light. Provide in-ground or container-grown plants fertile, slightly acid soil that's well-drained. Though drought tolerant once established, regular applications of water will produce the healthiest, prettiest plants.
A few copperleafs go a long way in the interior or exterior landscape. Their large, strongly colored leaves look gaudy if overused, so it's best to plant them sparingly as focal accents for shrub or mixed borders.