Questions on: Chennille
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: I have an indoor chenille plant that I love. Lately it hasnít been doing well. I've just finished looking for information about the plant but there seems to be slight variations on how to care for it. I have the plant right next to a west-facing window (I don't have a south-facing window). I wonder if the plant has been too close to the cold of the window. I spray it with water three or more times daily and water it the first day the soil is dry. I have been fertilizing it about once a month. It's losing leaves daily. The leaves turn yellow and dry up and fall off. Today I cut the plant back and took off all of the flowers and am starting fresh. I have to admit that about three months ago I sprayed it with hairspray because I thought it was my water bottle. I immediately sprayed it with water and gently tried to wash it away with my fingers, but you could tell there were still deposits on the leaves. The plant seemed fine for quite a while but suddenly the leaves started turning yellow and falling off. I don't know if that mistake is causing my problems. Also, what is the proper way to propagate its clippings? They are in water right now. (E-mail reference)
A: You are setting too high a standard for yourself. The picture you sent of a chenille plant is of a perfect plant. Just like gorgeous male and female models we see with perfect skin, hair, teeth and eyes, most of us, and the plants we grow at home, approach more of an "average" status! This plant thrives in a nice humid greenhouse with plenty of light and warm temperatures. Bringing one into an average home during winter months is a real test of survivability. Take cuttings and root them in a sand/peat media each spring and be satisfied with getting one to survive. Forget about it looking good over the winter months. If you can, take cuttings that are four to six inches long. Dip the ends in a rooting hormone and provide some bottom heat. Be sure they get plenty of direct light from the sun, artificial lighting, or a combination of both. The leaf drop your plant has been experiencing could be from an earlier spider mite infestation or possibly scale.
Q: I have a chenille plant that is growing great. I have it in a room with lots of light but not direct sun on the plant (at least most of the time). The plant is now showing yellow at the tips of the entire leaf "points." Is this a lack of fertilizer, or the sun shining on it some of the time, or is it a pest of some sort? (E-mail reference)
A: It sounds like salt burn. This could be caused by keeping the plant in a pot that is not freely draining and the fertilizer or water salts are building up to the point where this tip burn is now taking place. I'd suggest repotting in a free-flowing pot, with fresh potting soil, and fertilizing lightly every two weeks only during active periods of grown. It could also be that the direct sunlight is too much, so try moving it back a little from the source. Also, it could be low humidity or just simple senescence of the older leaves.
A: Yes, chenille plants make excellent houseplants. They need strong light through a filtered shade. If the light is inadequate, then the plant will become spindly and not flower. Keep it in a warm location away from cold drafts. During winter, cut back on the watering, keeping it just wet enough to prevent the soil from drying out. Chenille plants do not age gracefully, so begin taking tip cuttings in the spring and rooting them. Discard the parent plant when it no longer produces decent flowers or looks poorly.
A. The Chenille plant Acalypha hispida, thrives in high humidity and moist soil. Fertilize every couple of weeks from February until August. Keep pruned to desired formand use prunings as cuttings for propagation purposes. Repot around the first of February. The plant does best in partial shade, not direct sunlight.
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