Acalypha pendula – Strawberry Firetails

Acalypha pendula Firetail

Originating from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Acalypha pendula is sometimes referred to as strawberry firetails, dwarf chenille plant, cat tails, and more. It is such a wonderful plant to have. The one in the picture above was hanging on the curtain rod of my east facing window, where it was always covered in fluffy bright tails, dangling over my orchids. This trailing, ground cover plant has small, round, serrated leaves and is perfectly suited for a hanging basket.

Flower production occurs all year, except for the coldest months. Since the flowers take a long time to develop and they last a long time, a well established plant is never out of blooms, making this a true everbloomer.

Requirements:

Watering needs: 

Being a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, this plant can take some neglect in terms of watering. In my experience, it has average watering needs, but can handle the occasional drying out. As always, water more generously in the hot weather and reduce the watering in the cold winter months.

Light:

Medium to high light. East, west or south facing windows will do just fine. Having some direct light definitely helps flower production. I have grown and flowered it on a north facing window, but the plant tends to grow leggy and flower less. If you are taking it outside for the summer, it can grow in a shadier area as well. I have not yet tried to grow this plant under grow lights, but I’m excited to try it out.

Humidity:

Acalypha pendula

Pretty tolerant of lower humidity levels, but in my experience higher humidity results in better “tails”production. Generally speaking it’s not a fussy plant when it comes to watering and humidity, but warmth and light seem to be a lot more critical.

Soil Type and Fertilizer:

This fast growing and heavy blooming plant needs a decently rich soil and fertilizer. Either a regular or a blooming fertilizer will work. In terms of soil type and pH, this plant doesn’t seem to have a particular preference.

Propagation:

Since it grows like a ground cover, this plant will self root, and you can simply divide it when repotting, or pull off an “offshoot”. You can also root a cutting fairly easy. Some store bought plants (especially if you bough it in a hanging basket as an annual plant) might be treated with growth inhibitors, making the rooting of a cutting nearly impossible. You might have to give it some time, and after several re-pottings the inhibitor effects will fade away.

Other Care Tips and Personal Observations: 

The furry tails are so fun to look at, and they feel light and furry when you touch them. Although the plant is not toxic to cats and dogs, it is mildly toxic to humans, so be careful if you have small children. The flowers are not fragrant. They start of as tiny, upright pointy things, but still as bright and puffy as the fully grown tails, and as they grow larger the tip rounds off and they start to hang. On the picture below, in the middle of the bottom shelf, you can see a young Acalypha pendula, flowering on a north facing garden window, despite its small size and lack of direct light. This plant is pretty easy to grow. However, it can suffer from spider mites, and underfeeding. Acalypha pendula tends to grow bushy and cover the surface of the pot, so it doesn’t need pruning to look good.

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