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Publication #FPS004

Acalypha hispida: Chenille Plant1

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen2

Introduction

The chenille plant is a vigorous, upright, coarse-textured shrub that usually attains a height of 5 to 6 feet. Older specimens can grow taller with some support. The stems are heavily foliated with 6- to 8-inch-long, ovate, medium-green leaves. The flowers of chenille plant are attractive and droop in cattail-like, pendent clusters up to 18 inches in length. Flowers are showy, red, and borne by female plants during warm months of the year.

Figure 1. 

Full Form - Acalypha hispida: Chenille Plant.


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Figure 2. 

Leaf - Acalypha hispida: Chenille Plant.


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Figure 3. 

Flower - Acalypha hispida: Chenille Plant.


Credit:

Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Acalypha hispida

Pronunciation: ack-uh-LIFE-uh HISS-pid-uh

Common name(s): chenille plant

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Plant type: shrub

USDA hardiness zones: 10 through 11 (Fig. 4)

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: not native to North America

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: hedge; specimen; foundation; border; mass planting; accent

Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant

Figure 4. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


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Description

Height: 4 to 6 feet

Spread: 6 to 8 feet

Plant habit: upright

Plant density: moderate

Growth rate: fast

Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: serrate

Leaf shape: ovate

Leaf venation: pinnate; arcuate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: Red

Flower characteristic: year-round flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: no fruit

Fruit length: no fruit

Fruit cover: no fruit

Fruit color: no fruit

Fruit characteristic: no fruit

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy

Current year stem/twig color: green

Current year stem/twig thickness: medium

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in full sun

Soil tolerances: acidic; slightly alkaline; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: moderate

Soil salt tolerance: poor

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches

Other

Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice, persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers

Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more

Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

The chenille plant is a beautiful flowering shrub that is commonly used as an accent, hedge, specimen, or container plant. Its long period of bloom makes it a showy centerpiece for any tropical or subtropical garden. It is well suited for planting in a container to be set on a deck or patio.

This plant performs well in many types of well-drained landscape soils. It grows and flowers best in full sun, with little care other than irrigation needed to maintain the plant once it is established. After the plant finishes flowering, pruning may be needed to keep it a desired size.

Propagation is by cuttings.

Design Considerations

The long red flowers of the chenille plant are a striking feature that can be used to bring color to a shrub border. Red shows best in full sun when paired with other shrubs with white and pink flowers to make the red look more intense. Shrubs with dark green glossy leaves would also contrast well with the leaves of the chenille plant. Foreground plants could include purple and white flowers and fine or medium textures such as narrow strap blades in a clumping form or tall spiky forms with narrow leaves.

Pests and Diseases

There are no diseases of major concern associated with chenille plants. Scales, mites and aphids may be troublesome pests in some landscapes, especially when the plants are grown in partial shade.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FPS004, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Revised November 2017 and July 2018. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; and Gail Hansen, associate professor, Environmental Horticulture Department.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.