Botanical Name: Acalypha pendula
Origin: The Dwarf Chenille Plant originates from New Guinea and Java.
Height: Acalypha pendula will grow to a height of approximately 30 cm (1 ft).
Soil: This house plant is content with any quality general purpose potting mix.
Light: During the summer, Dwarf Chenille Plants should be given plenty of indirect, yet bright light. In winter, they will need a minimum of 4 hours worth of direct sun each day.
Humidity: Acalypha pendula is a plant that needs moderate to high levels of humidity. There are many simple ways of raising humidity levels to adequate levels.
Temperatures: A plant that likes to be fairly warm, the Dwarf Chenille Plant needs to be kept in temperatures around 18 to 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F).
Water: The potting mix for this plant needs to be kept evenly moist, and should never be allowed to completely dry out.
Fertiliser: A liquid high phosphorus fertiliser must be diluted with an equal part of water and should be fed to the Dwarf Chenille Plant fortnightly throughout spring and summer.
Propagation: Stem cuttings of approximately 8 cm (3 in) will root easily in a 50:50 mix of perlite and potting mix (all-purpose). The cuttings should, by the way, be taken reasonably early in spring.
Description and Care Tips
Also commonly known as Cat's, Fire or Kitten's Tail, the Dwarf Chenille Plant, Acalypha pendula, owes its name/s to the fuzzy plumes formed by its tiny red flowers, which trail over the plant's thick mound of serrated small leaves. As long as sufficient light is provided, Dwarf Chenille Plants will bloom almost all year.
Because this dwarf variety naturally remains small, it does not require pruning, and its natural tendency to be bushy means there is no need to pinch out growing tips in order to encourage branching. Pinching off fading blooms will, however, encourage an abundance of new blooms.
During its growing season, Acalypha pendula needs to be well fertilised and watered. As it appreciates high levels of humidity, it is best to place it onto a tray with wet pebbles. Misting the foliage (water should be at room temperature) each day will also help to raise levels, although this should not be done while the plant is in bloom.
Higher levels of humidity also help to prevent spider mite invasion - it is essential to look out for these pests, particularly in winter, when air tends to be drier. Once the Dwarf Chenille Plant has outgrown its pot, it needs to be repotted, using a pot with drainage holes to prevent accumulation of excess water causing the potting mix to become soggy. Repotting should only ever be done in spring, before the plant begins to bloom.
Placing this somewhat unusual house plant into a hanging basket or onto a pedestal or tiered plant stand will really show off its fuzzy, eye-catching flowers. Tiered plant stands are, by the way, an excellent, space-saving way of grouping house plants with similar needs for humidity.