Chenille plants are ideal for hanging baskets as they are hardy and attractive at the same time. Here is Gardenerdy’s brief overview about growing the plant that is popular for its red, furry catkins.
Almost all parts of the chenille plant are mildly toxic. So, keep them away from the reach of kids and pets.
The chenille plant gets its name from its droopy catkins that resemble the chenille yarn. It is also said that the name is derived from the French word chenille that means caterpillar, indicating the furry flowers. This tropical plant belongs to the genus Acalypha in the spurge family Euphorbiaceae. The chenille plant is also called red hot cat’s tail, fox tail, Philippines Medusa, etc. The plant is available as large specimens (Acalypha hispida) that grow as shrubs. Some of the smaller specimens are ideal as hanging plants or as creepers. Irrespective of their size, the requirements of different chenille varieties are almost similar.
The most common species, called Acalypha hispida, is an evergreen plant with a thick foliage. It blooms throughout the year, and the bright red catkins are long and furry. Being dioecious, male and female flowers develop on separate plants. While female flowers are long and brilliantly colored, male flowers are inconspicuous. So, plants sold by garden centers and nurseries are usually females. They are ideal as accent plants, hedges, or borders.
Acalypha hispida can be grown as hanging plants too. Apart from that, another species, called Acalypha pendula, has shorter catkins and small, serrated leaves. This trailing variety is ideal for hanging baskets and containers and is popular as dwarf chenille plant. Otherwise known as strawberry firetail, this plant can be grown as ground cover too.
Chenille Plant Care
Being hardy, chenille plants require less care and maintenance. However, these plants have certain basic requirements that have to be met with, if you want them to grow healthy and bloom well. Given below are some instructions to grow chenille plants in hanging baskets.
Get a chenille plant from the nursery and plant it in a container with proper drainage. Fill three-fourths of the container with well-drained soil. You may also use a commercial potting soil for growing dwarf chenille plants. The pH of the soil must be between 6.6 to 7.5. Once planted, water thoroughly and hang the container in a bright location.
Bright light is one of the basic requirements of the chenille plant, which needs plenty of light for blooming. Full sun is good for the plant, but provide afternoon shade in case of very hot summers. Indoor plants can be hung near a south-facing window. In that case, keep the plants in full sun, once or twice a week. It is always better to hang the plant outdoors, except during winters. Chenille plants can be grown in hardiness zones 9a to 11b.
Moist (not soggy) soil is best for chenille plants. Never allow the soil to dry out completely, as it may result in wilting. Prolonged dry spells may lead to death of the plant. You may check the moisture level by pressing the soil with your finger. Water the soil and mist the plant on a daily basis. Misting is beneficial as the plant likes high humidity. Mist the foliage, but spare the blooms. Water the soil thoroughly, till it flows out of the drainage holes. Avoid wetting the flowers while watering.
Fertilize the plant frequently during the active growth stage and the flowering season. You may use a water soluble fertilizer for this purpose. Fertilize the plant once a week during the flowering season. Otherwise, fertilize them once a month. Avoid use of fertilizers during winter months, when you have to keep the plant indoors. Choose an indoor location with plenty of bright light. Reduce watering during this time, but mist the foliage in between.
Pinch the dead stems and spent flowers regularly. This will ensure that the plant remains compact and bushy in the hanging basket. You may also prune the leggy stems. Trimming promotes new growths and blooms. Make sure that you wear gloves while handling these plants, as its sap may cause skin irritation. You may also propagate the plant using stem cuttings with a minimum length of three inches. Plant the stems in potting soil and keep the soil moist. Propagation is best done during spring.
Though chenille plants are resistant to many diseases and pests; scales, mites, and aphids may attack them. These problems are mostly seen in plants that grow in shaded areas. Downy mildew and powdery mildew may also develop in some plants. In short, growing chenille plants is not a difficult task, provided you have a basic know-how about the plant and its requirements.