The genus Acalypha (common name Beefsteak plant or Copper leaf) belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. These are hardy, fast growing, mainly shrubs (occasionally ground covers) with colourful foliage.
Flowers: Insignificant small spikes in summer to autumn, except A. hispida which has attractive red catkins.
Features: Some used for bedding, some good for hedging, smothers weeds. Requirements: Prefers fertile moist soils. Ideally 15-27oC, most are best in full sun, flowering and foliage colour may suffer in shade, but plants will still generally grow in shade. Best grown under glass during winter in cooler areas. Foliage can be burnt by hot dry winds, but recovers quickly.
Culture: Responds to watering in dry season, propagate by cuttings, pruning encourages thick habit making it an excellent screening plant, fertilising every 4 months maximises growth potential. Mulch well in areas where rainfall is not high. Easily transplanted.
Pest & Disease: Scale, beetles, grasshoppers, mealy bug & other leaf eating insects, sooty mould. Regular insect spraying is often needed to maintain a good display. Use carbaryl for most insects.
Species & Varieties:
Approximately 430 species known, including:
A. capillipes -Australian native to 5m tall, open sometimes sparse foliage, narrow dark green leaves, very hardy, grown as a greenhouse plant in Britain.
A. chamaedrifolia To 20cm tall, around 40cm diameter, prefers light shade, syn. A. reptans
A. 'Godseffiana' (syn. A. Wilkesiana 'Godseffiana' or A. godseffiana Heterophylla) -A popular hybrid with light green and cream variegation
A. hamiltoniana (Picotee Acalypha) -To 4m tall, with large curled green leaves with a rippled (serrated) pale cream margin, grows better in cooler moist areas of the tropics or sub tropics. (Thought to be a hybrid originating in an English nursery in the late 1800's)ated foliage, best in full sun.
A. hispida -Grows 2 to 3m tall. Leaves green, 10-15cm long. Dark red flowers to around 50 cm long for most of the year. It prefers filtered sun, grows in shade but does not flower as well. The variety 'Alba' has creamy-white flowers. Flowers for much of the year.
A. Wilkesiana (syn. A. tricolor) -A variable shrub from low growing up to 5m. Colourful foliage normally bronze green, but other forms exist. Will drop it's leaves during cold spells.
A. Wilkesiana 'Musaica' -Leaves green with orange or red markings, 2-3m tall.
A. Wilkesiana 'Obovata' -Leaves bronze green with rose-pink margins.
A. Wilkesiana 'Macafeana' -Large red leaves with orange and brown blotches.
A. Wilkesiana 'Marginata' -Green leaves with serrated pink margins.