How to Grow and Care for Chenile Plant (Acalypha hispida) Indoors


Chenile Plant, Acalypha hispida

Botanical name: Acalypha hispida
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Common names: Chenile Plant, Philippine Medusa, Red Hot Cat Tail, Monkey Tail, Foxtail

Description

Chenile Plant (Acalypha hispida) is a favorite indoor plant on account of its pendulous, brilliantly colored, furry flowers which are magnificient in a hanging basket or on a pedestal.

It bears large, bright-green, heart-shaped leaves with toothed margins on sparsely branched upright to arching stems.

Acalypha hispida has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit because of its attractiveness and brilliantly colored, furry flowers.

Red Hot Cat Tail are tropical perennial plant which cannot not tolerate cold temperatures. It is not cold hardy, therefore, it is best grown as indoor plants in the cold temperate climates.

In climates with harsh winters, Monkey Tail can be grown outdoors as container plants during spring and summer which are brought inside when the temperatures drop to about 150C in fall.

Origin

Acalypha hispida is native to Malesia and Papuasia and has become naturalized to United States, Mexico, Nicaragua and Belize.

The species name, 'hispida' is Latin for 'bristly', which refers to the pendant flowers which vaguely resemble brushes. The common name, 'Chenille' is French for Caterpillar.

Size

Chenile Plant can grow upto 5-8 ft ft long when grown indoors.

Flowers

Red Hot Cat Tail is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are on different plants. The female flowers consist of a simple row of pistils covered in downy catkins and can grow up to 18 in. long. The male flowers are not showy, plants offered as ornamentals are all females.

Varieties

Apart from the basic Acalypha hispida with red inflorescence, other cultivars are available. They include a white cultivar, ‘Alba’, ‘White Margined’ with cream colored flowers and creamy white teeth on the leaf margins and a dwarf form, Acalypha pendula, which grows only 3-7 in. tall.

Toxicity

Chenile Plants are non-toxic to humans and pets as outlined by ASPCA. They are safe to grow in the home.

Where to Buy

If you would like to acquire these plants, here is a link to Etsy shops.

Chenile Plant, Red Hot Cat Tail, Acalypha hispida

Chenile Plant Care Indoors

Chenile Plant (Acalypha hispida) requires bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight, warm and humid conditions, and consistently moist, well drained soil that is rich in organic matter.

Red Hot Cat Tail requires regular pruning to control growth. Repotting is only needed when the plant becomes potbound. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Watering

Water Chenile Plant thoroughly during the growing season when the top 2-3 in. of soil dry out and keep the soil moderately moist through out.

Reduce watering during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time and maintain the soil slightly moist but do not allow the soil to dry out completely.

Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and drain excess water from the catch plate or saucer to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.

Light Requirements

Chenile Plant grows best in bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight. A spot infront of a brightly-lit window is ideal for this plant.

Regularly turn the pot to ensure the plant receives adequate light on all sides to promote even growth and prevent the plant from getting leggy.

Chenile Plant can also be grown under a grow light where the natural light is not adequate.

You can move the Philippine Medusa outdoors in summer for some sun but acclimate it gradually to prevent scorching. Ensure to bring it back inside in fall when temperatures begin to drop, it can tolerate a temperature of 150C.

Temperature and Humidity

Chenile Plant prefers average warmth within the range of 18-280C. Keep it away from cold and hot drafts like windy doors, drafty windows, air conditioning units, hot air vents and others to prevent sudden changes in temperature which may lead to leaf drop and reduced growth.

Chenile Plant requires above average humidity of about 55-70% to thrive. Set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to increase humidity for the plant where the air is too dry.

Regularly clean the leaves with a damp soft cloth to get rid of dust as well as discourage pest infestations. Ensure that there is good air circulation to prevent fungal infestations.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Chenile Plant every 2-3 weeks during the growing season with a phosphorus-rich, water-soluble fertilizer to boost blooming and healthy growth of the plant.

Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time and feeding the plant at this time can lead to fertilizer burn and death of the plant.

Soil

The best soil for Chenile Plant should be rich in organic matter to provide the required nutrients and at a PH of 6-7.5 for the optimum growth of the plant.

A well-drained potting mix like this Organic Potting Mix is recommended for Red Hot Cat Tail to avoid getting soggy soil which can lead to root-rot and death of the plant.

Repotting

Repot Chenile Plant at the beginning of spring only when it becomes extremely pot-bound as it blooms best when slightly pot-bound. Do not repot a plant that is in flower as it can shorten the flowering period.

Repot the Red Hot Cat Tail into a pot 1 size larger than the current one that has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy to prevent root-rot and eventual death of the plant.

Slip the plant out of its pot, shake off the old potting mix and trim the dead roots with clean and sterilized scissors. Place the plant in the center of the new pot and refill with fresh, free-draining potting mix.

Wet the soil thoroughly until water comes out through the drainage hole, empty the saucer and place the plant infront of a brightly-lit window.

Pruning

Pruning Chenile Plant involves removal of dead leaves and flowers to keep the plant neat and discourage pests and diseases. To control growth and encourage a more compact growth, cutback the stems to about 12 in. above the soil after flowering. This will also boost blooming in the next season.

Chenile Plant, Red Hot Cat Tail

Chenile Plant Care Outdoors

Chenile Plants are tropical plants which require warm and humid conditions to thrive. They are not cold hardy, therefore, they are best grown as houseplants in the temperate climates.

However, in climates with harsh winters, Red Hot Cat Tail can be grown outdoors as container plants during spring and summer which are brought inside when the temperatures drop to about 150C in fall.

Cutback the plant to about 12 in. above the soil and place it in a warm, humid place where it can receive bright light and reduce watering to keep the soil slightly moist but do not let it dry out completely.

Do not feed the plant at this time as growth is reduced and ensure that there is good air circulation to prevent fungal infestations.

Once the temperatures warm up to 150C in spring, move the plant outdoors under bright sunlight but shield it from hot direct sunlight to prevent scorching.

Ensure that the soil remains moderately moist but not soggy by watering when the top 2-3 in. of soil feels dry and feed the plant every 2-3 weeks with a phosphorus-rich fertilizer to boost blooming.

Propagation

Chenile Plant (Acalypha hispida) can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season (spring) from stem cuttings.

How to propagate Chenile Plant from stem cuttings

Take a 4-5 soft stem cuttings from a healthy Chenile Plant. Strip off the lower leaves and dip the lower cut end in rooting powder to hasten rooting.

Insert the lower cut end in moist, free-draining rooting mix while taking care not to brush off the rooting powder and firm the soil around the base of the cutting.

Place the set up in a warm, brightly-lit spot away from direct sunlight to avoid cooking the cuttings.

Maintain the soil moist through out until the new plants are well established. Allow the new plants to be well established before transplanting after which you can begin routine care.

How to grow Chenile Plant from seeds

Spread Chenile Plant seeds evenly on moist free-draining soil and cover lightly with some soil. Cover the set up with a plastic sheet to create a greenhouse effect.

Place the set up in a warm, brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist through out by light misting the soil surface until the seedlings are well established.

When the seedlings have true leaves formed and are a reasonable size, transplant them into individual pots.

Position the pots in a warm, well-lit spot and maintain the soil moist until the new plants are well established after which you can begin normal routine care.

Red Hot Cat Tail, Acalypha hispida

Chenile Plant Common Problems

Chenile Plant (Acalypha hispida) common growing problems include lack of blooms, yellow leaves, leaf drop, leggy growth, pests among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to solve them.

Lack of blooms

Lack of blooms in Chenile Plant may be due to three possible causes. One possible cause of lack of blooms is lack of essential soil nutrients. To encourage blooming, fertilize the plant with a phosphorus-rich, water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.

The second possible cause of lack of blooms in Red Hot Cat Tail is failure to prune the branches after flowering. Cutback the stems to about 12 in. above the soil after blooming to encourage growth of new branches.

The third possible cause of lack of blooms in Chenile Plant is too little light. Position the plant in a brightly-lit place where it will receive bright, indirect light away from direct sunlight.

If the natural lighting is not adequate consider investing in a grow light to supplement it.

Yellow leaves

One possible cause of yellow leaves in Chenile Plant is underwatering. Maintain the soil consistently moist during the growing season. Reduce watering in the cold season as growth is reduced at this time but never allow the soil ball to dry out completely.

The second possible cause of yellow leaves in Red Hot Cat Tail is soggy soil brought about by poor soil drainage. Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is free-draining. Always empty the saucer after watering and never allow the plant to sit in soggy soil.

The third possible cause of yellow leaves in Philippine Medusa is too little light. The plant requires bright light with some direct sunlight but away from hot direct sunlight.

Move the Chenile Plant to a place where it will receive bright light with some 6-8 hours of morning or late afternoon direct sunlight. Alternatively, grow the plant under a grow light if the natural lighting is too low.

Leaf drop

Leaf drop in Chenile Plant is caused by two possible reasons. One possible reason is incorrect watering; either underwatering or overwatering.

Maintain the soil consistently moist during the growing season. Reduce watering in the cold season but do not let the soil dry out completely.

Ensure that pot has a drainage hole and the soil is loose, free-draining to prevent from getting soggy as it can result in root-rot which can result in loss of leaves.

The second possible reason for leaf drop in Red Hot Cat Tail is pest infestation. These sap-sucking insects will cause dehydration of the plant leading to wilting and leaf drop.

Leggy growth

Leggy growth in Chenile Plant is caused by too little light which means that the plant is not getting adequate light for making food needed for growth and development.

In a bid to get enough light, the plant stretches towards the light source which results in leggy growth; pale, undersized leaves, thin stems and wide spaces between the leaf nodes.

Place the Red Hot Cat Tail in a brighter spot as Chenile Plant grows best under bright light with 6-8 hours of direct sunlight or instal a grow light if the natural lighting is not sufficient.

Pests

The common pests in Chenile Plant are mealybugs, whiteflies and spidermites. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the rest of the houseplants and treat it with appropriate products like Neem oil or Insecticidal soap.

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