Chenille Plant, Chenille Firetail, etc.
Acalypha pendula C.Wright ex Griseb. is the correct and accepted name for this species of Acalypha. It was named and described by Charles (Carlos) Wright and August Heinrich Rudolf Grisebach in Die Geographische Verbreitung der Pflanzen Westindiens in 1865.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 430 accepted species of Acalypha.
Dave’s Garden lists this plant as Acalypha reptans and says Acalypha pendula AND Acalypha chamaedrifolia are synonyms. Plants of the World Online says Acalypha pendula is an accepted name and Acalypha reptans is a synonym of Acalypha chamaedrifolia. GEEZ!
Acalypha pendula is a native of Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Acalypha chamaedrifolia is a native of Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Florida, Haiti, Jamaica, Leeward Island, Puerto Rico, and Windward Island.
I bought my ‘Chenille Firetail’ from Wagler’s Greenhouse on May 20, 2017. The tag simply said ‘Chenille Firetail’. It further said full to part sun and the hight was 8-12”. The back of the label says “Fluffy, fiery red, tassel-like blooms stand out against the rich green leaves. Superb for baskets, containers and window boxes. Best in fertile, well-drained soil kept evenly moist. Skin and eye irritant/harmful if eaten.”
As usual, they had a lot of nice hanging baskets of these plants, as did the other local greenhouses. I didn’t want to pay the price so I bought a smaller pot to give this plant a try and put it in the new shade bed.
According to the Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acalypha), there are approximately 450-462 species on the Acalypha genus. Plants of the World Online lists 424 accepted species and 14 synonyms. It does not list the synonyms within the Acalypha genus, such as Acalypha reptans. The species are native mainly to tropical and subtropical areas, about 60% from the Americas and 30% from Africa. The genus includes annuals, perennials, shrubs and small trees. There are four species native to Missouri and perhaps others to most of the continental U.S. but they look nothing like the Chenille Plant…
The Acalypha pendula didn’t even hesitate once after I transplanted into the soil. It was in part shade so perhaps a little more sun would have been better.
Now, all I had to do was figure out the species of Acalypha this plant is. I typed in ‘Chenille Firetail’ since that is what the label said. First on the list was a link to Proven Winners which described the Firetail Chenille Plant and said it was an Acalypha pendula but they say it grows to only 3-5”. Dave’s Garden says it is Acalypha reptans and that Acalypha pendula is a synonym of that species. They also say A. chamaedrifolia is a synonym. Other websites say it is an Acalypha hispida. Dave’s Garden does have a guide for the Dwarf Chenille Plant and it states it is Acalypha pendula. GEEZ!
The small leaves kind of reminded me of strawberries (the leaves). The Latin meaning for Acalypha is from a Greek word meaning nettle.
Well, folks, originally I had been using The Plant List, which is now unmaintained. The 2013 version said that Acalypha reptans is a synonym of Acalypha chamaedrifolia, which is the opposite of what Dave’s Garden said. I decided to see what the NEW Plants of the World Online had to say… According to that site, A. pendula is an accepted scientific name as is Acalypha chamaedrifolia. However, they DID NOT list A. hispida OR A. reptans at all. Now that is just whacky because A. hispida is definitely an accepted name! Then I noticed another list on their site on the Acalypha page that does have A. hispida included… OK, I will give them a break since they are still uploading data.
SO, here’s the deal… I had originally labeled all the photos I had taken as Acalypha hispida for some reason I can’t remember, but when I did the research for this page, I decided that was completely wrong. Acalypha hispida is a broadleaf evergreen shrub, native to tropical Asia, that grows 4-6’ tall (plus) in USDA Zones 10-11 (where it has naturalized awesomely in some areas). I decided my plant must be Acalypha pendula because it is actually classified as a trailing ground cover and it is also the name given on Proven Winners (not saying the industry doesn’t use inaccurate scientific names-GEEZ!). Anyway, that is what I am going to call it for now… It does, however, resemble the Acalypha chamaedrifolia in many ways, which is also grown as a hanging basket plant.
Native: Plants of the World Online says Acalypha pendula is native to the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti.
Zones: 9a-11b, possibly as low as 7b during a mild winter.
Light: Part sun to light shade. Some websites even say full sun, but I am not so sure about that.
Height: 6-10”, depending on which website you are looking at.
Flowers: Neat fuzzy red flowers until frost, even longer if you grow them as a houseplant.
Maintenance: Apparently this plant doesn’t mind a good heavy pruning if they get straggly but usually they maintain a nice appearance. Flowers should be removed when they start fading to encourage more flowers.
Uses: Containers, hanging baskets, houseplant, ground cover.
Propagation: Easily propagated from stem cuttings
CAUTION: As a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, this plant is poisonous even to pets.
As the Acalypha pendula grows and spreads along the ground, the nodes take root in the soil making it an effective groundcover that knows no boundaries.
As houseplants, they require bright light perhaps from a south facing window. If they don’t flower inside, it is likely they aren’t getting enough sun. They prefer temperatures above 60 degrees F while inside, while outside they stay green and flower right up to a frost but need deadheading to encourage more. They like lots of water and should be watered thoroughly but the soil needs to dry somewhat between watering. They like humidity, so spraying is appreciated. The pot can be placed in a tray or something with pebbles with water to raise the humidity around the plant. They are heavy feeders, so they like regular feeding with a balanced fertilizer every 1-2 weeks. Or you could use a potting soil with added fertilizer which should last for several months. If their growth gets straggly, they respond well to a hard pruning (50-70% of growth). They shouldn’t be repotted until their roots have filled the pot.
Acalypha’s are susceptible to mealy bugs, spider mites, whiteflies and aphids so you need to keep an eye out. Check the plants over pretty carefully when bringing them inside for the winter. It is recommended to give them a preventative spray when doing so. If you do notice an infestation, isolate them from other plants until the bugs are gone…
I really liked my Chenille Firetail with its awesome fuzzy red flowers. The leaves are dark green and make the red flowers stand out even more. I had no issues with this plant. I had been debating bringing this plant inside for the winter because they are prone to pests.
While plant shopping with my sister and niece on May 2, 2018, my sister bought another Chenille Plant for me at Muddy Creek Greenhouse. This year I think I will put it in a larger pot instead of planting it in the ground. Then if I decide to bring it inside for the winter it will already be in a pot.
I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.