Part Sun to Sun
3 - 7 Inches
Welcome through Fred's Garden Gate! Chenille Plant (Acalypha hispidia), also called Foxtails and Red-hot Cat's Tail, is actually a shrub in its native habitat — the Pacific islands. Grown as a houseplant for its unusual six-inch long red "tassels" of chenille-like flowers, the mature plant has leaves similar to Poinsettia. Fact is, they're related (both are in the family: Euphorbiaceae). They are easy plants to grow, especially when provided the right conditions.
Started in early spring, Acalyphas can easily top seven-feet by autumn and will be a large, bushy shrub. Yearly pruning will be necessary to maintain a more manageable three- to four-foot height.
Bright light is needed to develop their characteristic dark green leaves but they must not be subjected to direct sunlight, cold night time drafts or excessively-dry humidity. Such unkindnesses will cause leaf-scorch, wilting and dropping of foliage. A good indicator of the conditions it prefers is its origin - the warm, humid, tropical landscape of New Guinea. Therefore, the trick here, in addition to bright light, is warmth (consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit), high humidity, ample moisture and a rich, humusy soil. Feeding is required every 14 days with any good liquid houseplant fertilizer (Peters® 10-30-20 is one which I prefer).
In the Fall, when growth slows and flower tassels look tattered, decrease plant height to about half, and re-pot in fresh high-compost soil if necessary. Reduce watering and fertilizer and maintain a temperature of about 60-65 degrees (F).
You can take cuttings during February, leaving a little "heel" on five- to six-inch current-season stems. They'll readily root in half-sand, half-peat if kept moist, humid and shaded. Pot up into individual clay (if you have them) containers, let them catch their breath for a few days then treat them like grown-ups.
Chenille plants have only one serious pest: two-spotted red spider mites. If you allow your plant to remain dryer than it would like or put it in bright, hot sun, mites will move in, multiply, and probably kill the plant. Daily misting is recommended. If you see signs of the little pests, go for the Safer's® insecticidal soap...fast!
One final tip: flower tassels will last quite a long time but it's a good idea to remove them at first sign of "going by." Dead-heading spent flowers will encourage formation of a continuous parade of soft, fuzzy tassels.
Chenille Plant requires lots of sunshine to fuel those flowers. This would be the plant you give the prime sun-shiny real estate to. The more light you can give this plant, the better, but it will also do okay in partial sun. If your plant isn’t flowering for you, the first thing I would check is how much sunlight it gets a day.
Try not to let this plant get too dry. It is always tricky to keep a plant moist without over-watering, but if you pay close attention while you are getting to know the needs of your new plant you will quickly learn how much water it would like. If you let this plant wilt, the flowers will suffer. Don’t ever let it get completely dry, or it will die.
Chenille Plant also appreciates plenty of fertilizer to keep it going. Fertilize at every watering while it is actively growing and while flowers are forming. If the plant slows down for the winter, cut back on the fertilizer. The further away you are from the equator, the less light your plant will get indoors in the winter. If you are like me, your best bet is to give your Chenille Plant a summer vacation outdoors to rejuvenate it.
Spider mites are the main pest you might encounter if you grow this plant indoors. If you see leaves turning slightly yellow with a stippling pattern, you may have these invaders. Check also for the tell-tale webs the spider mites spin. Once you see webbing, you need to treat the plant right away in order to save your plant.
It is very easy to propagate Chenille Plant, so when you are giving it a routine trim (which it will probably need fairly often) use the pieces you cut off to start new plants for yourself or friends. Use pieces that have a two leaves on them and a short stem. Stick these cuttings in a 50/50 mix of potting soil and perlite. Keep the cuttings moist and out of direct sun until you have roots on them. When the roots are a few inches long and full you can plant them into their own pots!
Chenille Plant is toxic, which is another great reason to grow your plant in a hanging basket or on a plant stand. The catkins are very tempting for kids to play with and cats to swat at. Handling the plant excessively can cause skin irritation and ingesting it can cause minor stomach upset. Chenille Plant won’t seriously hurt anyone, but it really is more fun to look at than eat.
Growing False Aralias as House Plants
Indoors, False Aralia plants should be kept in an area with bright filtered light, but never in full sun.
They should be grown in pots or planters with sufficient drainage holes, and be planted in a peat moss based, commercial potting mix.
Water regularly while actively growing, keeping the soil slightly moist.
Never allow the soil to remain soggy nor let it dry out completely. Never allow a False Aralia to sit in a saucer of water.
False Aralias prefer a warm, fairly humid atmosphere, with daytime temperatures of 75°-85° and 70° nights.
Temperatures below 60° will quickly cause the lower leaves to drop.
Feed pot grown False Aralia plants every other month during the spring and summer,
using a soluble fertilizer that has been formulated for house plants.
Your plant will enjoy spending the summer months in a shaded area of your garden,
but be sure to check for pests and problems before bringing them back indoors.
During the dry winter months, you should mist the foliage daily
or place the planter on a tray filled with moistened pebbles to increase humidity.
Pests and Problems of False Aralia Plants
The most common pests to infest False Aralias are Spider Mites, Aphids, Scale and Mealy Bugs.
False Aralia plants will shed their lower leaves for a variety of reasons.
Watering is critical. Too much or too little water will cause the leaves to shed.
The leaves will also fall off if the temperature drops below 60° or changes rapidly.
Lack of humidity in the winter is another cause of leaf drop.
Propagating Schefflera elegantissima Plants
False Aralia plants can be propagated with softwood stem cuttings taken during the summer. Older plants are a little harder to start and should be propagated by air layering in the spring.
Schefflera seeds can be started indoors at any time,
but for the best results sow fresh seeds in late summer.
These seeds germinated faster with light, so do not cover them!
Maintain a temperature in the growing medium of 70° until germination, which takes 20-30 days.
Dwarf Chenille Plant