Acalypha hispida

Chenille Plant . Even though this spurge is widely distributed in all tropical countries, its origin remains unknown. Only two species of this large genus have become popular house plants. A. hispida has typical long inflorescences. It is a shrub with large, alternate, ovate leaves, dentate on the margins. The rich, drooping spikes of small reddish flowers may be up to 50 cm (20 in) long. The cultivar ‘Alba’, with creamy flowers, is also grown, but it is less common.

Cultivation of these decorative plants is not very difficult. They require a light location, but not in direct sun. The minimum summer temperature is 20° C (68° F), and in winter the temperature should not fall below 16°-18°C (61°-64°F). They require high humidity and plenty of water during the growing season. In winter they should be watered sparingly. Do not allow the compost to dry out completely or the plants will shed their leaves. The best method of watering is to spray them with tepid water. The compost must be very nourishing; a good choice is a mixture of peat, leaf mould, frame soil, compost and sand. Repot young plants every year, and older shrubs every two to four years in early spring. If they become too big, the plants may be cut back. Propagate by cuttings at any time of the year. Take stem tip cuttings from the parent plant at the junction between the previous year’s wood and the new shoot. Cuttings root very well in a propagator within two weeks.

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