Dwarf Chenille Plant, Chenille Plant, Chenille Firetail, Firetail Chenille Plant, Trailing Red Cattail
Synonym of Acalypha pendula (1)(Updated on 12-21-22 from Plants of the World Online): Acalypha chamaedrifolia var. pendula (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Müll.Arg. (1866)
Acalypha pendula C.Wright ex Griseb. is the accepted scientific 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.
As of 12-21-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 436 accepted species in the Acalypha genus. It is a member of the plant family Euphorbiaceae with 227 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.
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, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Acalypha chamaedrifolia is a native of the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Florida, Haiti, Jamaica, Leeward Island, Puerto Rico, and Windward Island.
There are several links at the bottom of the page for further reading.
I brought my first Acalypha pendula home from Wagler’s Greenhouse on May 20, 2017. The tag simply said it was an Acapypha and the cultivar was ‘Chenille Firetail’. It further said full to part sun and the height 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 for a hanging basket, so I bought a smaller pot to give this plant a try and put it in the new shade bed.
According to Wikipedia (when I first wrote this page), there are (or were) approximately 450-462 species in the Acalypha genus and it still says the same thing. Plants of the World Online lists 436 accepted species as of 12-21-22 when this page was last updated. Hmmm… We lost two species from the year before which are likely synonyms of another species now). Acalypha 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… I have one or two here on the farm, but I am still working on proper ID… You know how it goes… You think you have it figured out then another plant pops up somewhere that changes the rules and then winks at you.
The Acalypha pendula didn’t even hesitate once after I transplanted it in 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! Dave’s Garden is a great source of information but some of the scientific names are out of date. Currently, Plants of the World Online says Acalypha reptans is a synonym of Acalypha chamaedrifolia. At any rate, and I may repeat myself, Acalypha pendula is a groundcover while Acalypha chamaedrifolia is a shrub that grows 4-5 feet tall… I don’t think you would want a shrub in a hanging basket…
The small leaves kind of reminded me of strawberry leaves. The Latin meaning for Acalypha is from a Greek word meaning nettle.
Plants of the World Online says A. pendula is an accepted scientific name as is Acalypha chamaedrifolia. POWO lists A. reptans as a synonym of A. chamaedrifolia. They also list A. hispida as an accepted name.
Origin: 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, houseplants, 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 grow and spread 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 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.
Chenille Plants 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… If the infestation is severe, you could opt to throw it out the door. There are, of course, many insecticides on the market which work OK. Just consider all you have to do such as removing it from the pot, cleaning the roots, washing the plant to remove the critters, putting it into a new pot and new potting soil, and keeping an eye on the plant. Likely, the bugs will reappear and you have to repeat the process all over again. A well-experienced greenhouse grower says mealybugs can become immune with repeated applications of the same insecticide…
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 put my Chenille Plant in a larger pot and it is happily growing behind the shed in light shade.
For some reason, I didn’t take any more photos of the Chenille Plant in 2018 and I didn’t bring any home in 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022. Maybe I will in 2023. We shall see… Sometimes they are all in hanging baskets.
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.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
GUIDE TO HOUSEPLANTS
THE NATIONAL GARDENING ASSOCIATION
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂