123 Acalypha hispidaCommon Names: chenille plant, red-hot cattail, foxtail, red-hot cat's tail Family: Euphorbiaceae (spurge Family)
Chenille plant is an erect, sparsely branched shrub that can get 6-12 ft (1.8-3.7 m) high with a spread of 3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m). Potted plants are kept considerably smaller. The evergreen leaves are oval, 4-9 in (10-23 cm) long, 3-4 in (7.6-10 cm) wide, and pointed on the tips. Chenille plant is dioecious, meaning that the staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers are on separate plants. The pistillate flowers are purple, bright red or crimson, and clustered in velvety catkins, 8-20 in (20-51 cm) long and an inch in diameter. They are dense and fluffy, like a cat's tail, and they appear intermittently throughout the whole year as long as conditions are favorable. The cultivar, 'Alba' has creamy-white catkins.
Chenille plant is native to New Guinea, the Malay Archipelago and other islands in the East Indies.
CultureLight:Full sun to partial shade. Best flowering is on plants in full sun. Moisture:Chenille plant needs a humid environment and frequent watering during the summer growing season. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 12. Chenille plant does not tolerate frost. Propagation:Propagate chenille plant from cuttings taken in summer. Best results come from semi-ripe wood tip cuttings with a heel.
Chenille plant can be grown in a container on the patio or porch, and brought indoors during cold weather. It looks great in a large hanging basket with its fluffy crimson tassels hanging over the sides. It also can be kept as a houseplant in a bright location, but it will require frequent and heavy pruning, as well as regular misting in an air conditioned room. A common practice is to take cuttings every year and have new young and vigorous plants constantly coming on.
In frost free climates, grow this striking ornamental as a free standing specimen shrub or give it a prominent position in a mixed border or hedge.
The brightly colored pendulous tassels of chenille plant are extremely showy, and a specimen in full bloom is a spectacular sight.
Steve Christman 3/21/00, 9/18/03