This morning in
Savannah, the heat and humidity were simply staggering but as I drove
into the garden there they were, two acalypha plants, the tropical
troopers of the landscape. What I was looking at were Java White and
the bright red cat tail like blooms of chenille plant.
When it comes to
August temperatures we as gardeners need some tough tropicals to help
the landscape dazzle until cool season planting time arrives. When you
think hot and the dog days of summer the copper plant is one that
comes to mind and calling Java White copper is certainly a misnomer.
It is funny, it
is in the same genus and species, which is acalypha wilkesiana. Here
you will find those with foliage that is truly a copper color, many as
showy as a new penny, but the foliage of Java White appears as though
kissed by snow. It features various patterns and variegations of
green, white and cream with leaves that are like snowflakes in that no
two are alike. But like the others, it too attains a shrub-like habit
in sun to part sun and certainly offers an exotic appeal all of its
The copper plant
or copperleaf has its origins in the Pacific islands. It is in the
Euphorbia family, making it related to the poinsettia, croton and
chenille plant which is known botanically as Acalypha hispida. In the
South Pacific, copper plants may reach 10 to 15 feet in height, a
In addition to
the Java White keep your eyes open for Beyond Paradise. The name is
aptly suited as the plant thrills with its brilliantly variegated
leaves in shades of copper and rose. That is its full sun color. In
the shade, it is not quite so bright but equally stunning as the
leaves feature various blends of copper, green and rose red
reaches 36 inches tall and will be a beacon in the garden mesmerizing
all those who pass by your home. It also makes a visually stimulating
companion in mixed containers that will only be limited by your
In addition to
Beyond Paradise, there is a fairly new introduction called Jungle
Cloak. When you look at the leaves you feel like it is impossible to
get such a unique camouflage pattern featuring green cream red and
copper. It too reaches about 36 inches in height with a spread of 24
But I also
mentioned the chenille plant, which by the way is officially
tail. This pendulous blooming jewel is from Malaysia and New Guinea.
There and similar tropical climates it becomes a 6-foot tall shrub
adorned with 18-inch long drooping tail-like structures of deep red.
In the sun in Savannah, they seem to also glisten. We are growing ours
in a planter box–like setting that allows the flowers to cascade
over the edge.
choose a variety of copperleaf or the chenille plant well drained soil
will be your friend. If your drainage is the least bit suspect,
incorporate several inches of organic matter while preparing the bed.
These plants grow quite large, so space them adequately. At 18 inches,
they will quickly form a hedge-like look. Depending on the variety you
will want to space them 24 to 36 inches apart.
incredible in mixed containers with both flowers and foliage. The
copper partners well with blue flowers whether salvias or my favorite
the light blue plumbago. You can also create thrilling partnerships
with soft orange and apricot.
for years were sold generically, but thankfully that is now passé
thanks to varieties like Beyond Paradise, Bourbon Street, Ceylon and
Jungle Cloak. The chenille plant, on the other hand, is still generic.
Unless you live
in zone 9 and warmer these plants will be grown as an annual but are
worth every penny. There are certainly gardeners that take them inside
for the winter bringing a touch of the tropics indoors. Because of
their rugged nature, many garden centers bring them in for a late
summer landscape pick up. You could hardly do better.