Colorful Copperleaf: Acalypha Brings Bold Foliage to the Garden
Need colorful, striking foliage for a tropical look? You must try a Copperleaf. This plant is used as a pseudo-shrub in frost free gardens, and is now appearing as an annual in middle to cooler zones. Copperleaf also serves well as an indoor plant in a bright spot. What more can you ask?
"Hey, I picked up some cool looking red foliage plants for 75 cents. You might want to try one..."
Article writing leads to a constant search for new material. Writers might (I did) start out by "writing what they know." But those of us (me) who are not experts can run out of "what we know." Then we garden writers scrounge for new material: plants we hope to acquire, new invading bugs, lesser traveled topics in fertilization or composting. Sometimes a writer has a garden buddy who helps with the search by ferreting out unusual plants. (I do!)
Friend and dedicated gardener Gita visited one of her favorite nurseries in early summer. Clearance tables there were overflowing with excess annuals. She was intrigued by some unfamiliar plants with bold red foliage- Acalypha 'Bronze Pink.' Knowing I often need a new plant to explore, she bought several Acalyphas
and gave one to me.
Copperleaf, Acalypha wilkesiana, offers bright, tropical foliage for warm gardens or containers.
My husband swears I don't need any more plants, but I needed this one. Red stems sprouted from the too-small pots, bearing huge, glossy, exhuberantly mottled leaves. Young leaves emerged in olive green and coppery orange, morphing to pink and brinze as they grew. I placed a copperleaf between a pale 'Gold Mop' false cypress
and some creamy variegated Liriope. Pow! The big hot-colored copperleaf contrasted beautifully, in form and color, to the existing plants.
Research is part of writing; I learned that this plant is properly called Acalypha wilkesiana
, and "improperly" called copperleaf or Jacob's coat. (Not to be confused with Joseph's Coat, an amaranth.) 'Bronze Pink, ' pictured above is just a sample. Plant growers offer a bounty of copperleaf cultivars. Leaf form can vary in size, shape, ruffle, and "toothiness." Red cultivars predominate, but many are beautifully variegated in green and white as well. Almost Eden
and Kartuz Greenhouses
are two sites offering many choices in Acalypha wilkesiana.
Tropical landcape, sunny garden, container: you have a place for Copperleaf
Copperleaf is a tropical plant that probably originated in Southeast Asia. Gardeners in Florida and other southern zones may know and love Copperleaf already, as a shrubby perennial. In tropical garden zones, many Copperleaf varieties grow to five feet tall or more. They serve as tropical shrubs in any average soil and moisture conditions.
In zones with routine winter freeze, copperleaf is grown as a "sunny to part shade" annual. Red hued copperleaf colors up boldly with plenty of sun. White and green cultivars are better performers in less sunny spots. Freezing temperatures will damage exposed parts of the plant, but it will regrow from the roots if frost is short lived.
Copperleaf is a member of the Euphorbia genus and thus may be deer resistant; other Euphorbias seem to be. Copperleaf roots very easily. Prune copperleaf selectively for fullness as needed, and consider rooting your cuttings to overwinter the plant or share it with other gardeners.
"Hey, the grower was gettting ready to dump a bunch of annuals. He let me take more Acalypha. You want them?"
Yes, my plant buddy Gita went back to the nursery in July and caught them on throw away day. I'm sure you can guess what I said to the offer of more Copperleaf plants...
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Note: Don't confuse these with Chenille plant, a close cousin. Copperleaf, which I'm focusing on here, has only small uninteresting flowers which you'll hardly notice beneath the gorgeous foliage. (Read more about the chenille plant Acalypha in The Chenille Plant Revitalization Action Plan
by Tamare Galbraith.)
Schmidt, Eric. Copperleaf Acalypha wilkesiana, Harry P. Leu Gardens, 'Garden View', accessed 7/26/13
Almost Eden, www.almostedenplants.com
Kartuz Greenhouses, www.kartuz.com