Acalypha hispida, the Chenille plant, is a flowering shrub which belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae, the subfamily , and the genus Acalypha. Acalypha is the fourth largest genus of the Euphorbiaceae family, and contains many plants native to Hawaii and Oceania. This plant is also known as the Philippines Medusa, red hot cat's tail and fox tail in English, pokok ekor kucing in Malay,Rabo de Gato in Portuguese and Tai tượng đuôi chồn in Vietnamese. Also, famous as Chenille Plant and Bristly Copperleaf. Acalypha hispida is cultivated as a house plant because of its attractiveness and brilliantly colored, furry flowers. The plant originated in Oceania, but has become naturalized to multiple countries in North America, including the United States, Mexico, and Belize. It can grow to be five to twelve feet (1.8-3.7 meters) tall, and have a spread of three to six feet (0.9-1.8 meters), with potted plants being the smallest in growth. 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). 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 brightly colored pendulous tassels of Chenille Plant are extremely showy, and a specimen in full bloom is a spectacular sight. The plant has become somewhat domesticated, due to the nature and color of its flowers. It can be grown from seeds as well as from cuttings. It can be kept either as an outdoor plant or as a houseplant. However, care should be taken in growing it, as all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested by animals. The plant is dioecious, and therefore there are distinct male and female members of the species. The female plant bears pistillate flowers which range in color from purple to bright red, and grow in clusters along catkins. This feature is the primary reason the plant bears the nickname “red-hot cat tail”. The pistillates will grow all year long as long as the temperatures are favorable.
Chenille Plant can be grown on a porch, and brought indoors during cold weather. It is a very showy specimen in a hanging basket with its fluffy red tassels hanging over the sides. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10 to 11. In its native area, it tolerates a wide range of soil conditions from acidic to slightly alkaline and will grow in sand, loam or clay. It has moderate drought tolerance and poor salt tolerance and will grow in full sun to part shade. In the St. Louis area, it must be grown in containers which can be placed outside on decks and patios during warm weather or it can be grown indoors year-round in an area that receives bright, indirect light. When placed outside, avoid direct afternoon sun. In winter, plants benefit from misting to maintain higher humidity levels, but do not spray flowers. They are relatively trouble free, but watch for mealybugs, red spider mites and scale. Prune severely to 4 to 8 inches in spring to encourage new growth and increased bloom; remove spent flowers. Indoors, keep soil moderately moist, but not soggy. Feed monthly from March to September.
Garden UsesIn St. Louis, grow in containers or baskets on decks, patios or rooftop gardens. It is a good plant for color and should be used as an accent for both color and texture in a container. Or, it can be grown year-round in a greenhouse or sun room giving the area a tropical feel.
sources: Elfloras, Realornamentals, Araflora, Davesgarden, Cvetq.eu, Boomanfloral, Wikimedia, Mundoemfoco, Senthuherbals, Tropilab, Wikipedia