Acalypha: Red Hot Catstail
The red-hot catstail, Acalypha hispida, is a spectacular flowering houseplant.
Its long, fluffy, feather bower-like catkins dangle down from the leaf joints. Its bright colour and unusual appearance evoke the spirit of the tropics, from where the plant originates. The bright red flowers are produced, intermittently, all year round but most frequently in summer and autumn.
Unfortunately, Acalypha can be a difficult plant to look after and to keep looking good. In fact, it generally prefers the conditions in ato those in the house. This is because it is easier to keep up the high humidity levels that it thrives on in conservatory conditions. Try to find it a spot in light shade in the or conservatory for most of the time and then bring it into the house as a short-term houseplant when it is looking good. If this is not possible, keep the humidity around the plant as high as possible by placing its container in a tray of moist expanded clay granules, and by regularly misting the leaves. If leaves start to drop, the most likely cause is dry air. It will also suffer if kept in bright sunlight, particularly throughout spring and summer.
As the plant ages, it will become tall and straggly. Pruning in spring will keep the size down and delay the onset of this straggly appearance, but eventually the plant will need replacing. Takein spring. The new plants are likely to flower in the following year.
Acalypha wilkesiana, known as the copperleaf, is grown for its attractive green and copper foliage, which is sometimes splashed with red. It produces catkins, which are also green or copper and consequently they are often hidden among the leaves. Acalypha hispida is more impressive looking as an indoor plant, however, than Acalypha wilkesiana.