Here at Family Handyman, we are lovers of all flowers. From the low-maintenance to the truly colorful, there’s a place for every flower in our gardens. And now, we have a new favorite fleur du jour, a fuzzy, fuchsia cattail-like critter, first spotted by our photo editor, Darren Hartwell, at a greenhouse in Roanoke, Virginia. So, what are these bizarre, Dr. Suess-y plants, exactly? Here’s everything you need to know, including how to grow them yourself.
Meet Your New Favorite Flower: The Firetail Chenille Plant
These “fluffy masses of bright red flower spikes” are called Firetail Chenille, or Acalypha Pendula. They are sometimes also appropriately called “monkey tails” or “red-hot cattails.” In appearance, their leaves are simple, but their bright, fluffy flowers are stunning. They are a trailing varietal of plant, making them perfect for hanging planters and flower boxes, and bloom in the United States in spring and summer. In their native Philippines or New Guinea, they can grow up to 18 feet tall and 8 feet wide. However, here in the United States, they will likely only grow around 18 inches wide and 5 inches tall, making them suitable ground cover for your garden.
Where to Get Firetail Chenille
Before you go out and buy firetail chenille, first make sure it can thrive in your area. If you are in plant hardiness zones 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a and 11b, you will have the best chances at supporting firetail chenille. If you are not in these zones, firetail chenille can also grow happily indoors or in a greenhouse to mimic its preferred tropical climate. From there, the firetail chenille will need full to partial sun and sandy, loamy soil. If you can meet these requirements, head to your local nursery and search for the fuzzy flowers among the other trailing flowers or tropical plants. If you see fuchsias, petunias and begonias, you’re likely on the right track.
How to Grow Firetail Chenille
Now, for the fun part—planting! Find a suitably sized container and fill it with your loamy soil. Transplant your nursery starter into the soil and water immediately. While the plant establishes its roots, be sure to keep the soil consistently moist. Then, throughout its growing season, water it every 2 or 3 days, or before the soil dries out completely. Keep the plant in a place that exceeds 60 degrees, and for best results, till in a half-strength balanced flower fertilizer every week. Ta-da: a new, vibrant plant friend!
Still, if you’re reading all this and it sounds like a lot of effort for one plant—no matter how whimsical—check out our list of invincible houseplants. These indoor plants do especially well in winter, and, if all else fails, they make some pretty amazing fake look-alikes these days. Dress them up with these design tricks, and your guests will be none the wider!