Also known as foxtails or red hot cat’s tail, the chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is a striking little shrub and no mistake.
Suitable for growing indoors or out, in its summer pomp it produces red tassel-like bracts that resemble fuzzy tails.
Well, it should do – as long as the plant is healthy. But if your chenille plant is stubbornly refusing to flower, why is that? And what can you do to encourage it?
Why your chenille plant isn’t flowering
The number one reason a chenille plant won’t bloom is because it’s not getting enough light. To promote flowering, move it to a spot with bright direct light for several hours a day all year round (eg a sunny windowsill), but keep it shaded from the fiercest summer sun.
These tropical plants are native to the steamy forests of New Guinea and made for hot and humid summers. So it’s no surprise they thrive best with plenty of heat and light.
If you don’t live in tropical climes, you’re probably growing your chenille plant as a houseplant. This is good news for both you and your plant.
It’s much easier to control the amount of heat and light it receives – and find it the perfect spot.
You might also like: Signs you have an underwatered ponytail palm.
When should a chenille plant flower?
Ordinarily, the flowers appear from late spring through to early autumn, peaking in June. However if you’re lucky enough, the plant can bloom at other times throughout the year.
You can help it fulfil its blooming promise by laying on the perfect growing conditions.
Keep it as healthy as possible and you could enjoy fantastic spontaneous flower displays in the depths of winter. The perfect antidote to winter gloom.
Top tips to encourage blooming
1. Give it enough light
Low light is the most likely cause of flowering problems, so it’s the most important thing to check.
Look at where your plant is now – is it getting plenty of natural sunlight for most of the day? If not, find it a new spot that’s bathed in light.
Acalyphas with variegated leaves will also lose their colour if they’re lacking light, which makes diagnosis easier.
2. Keep the soil moist at all times
Chenille plants are used to year-round rainfall, so need plenty of moisture if they’re going to bloom. Water your plant as often as you need to ensure it never dries out.
In summer, this will probably mean watering thoroughly two or three times a week. In winter, once a week should be plenty.
Use the finger test to check the moisture level. Push your finger into soil and if it’s dry below the surface, it’s time to top up.
3. Spray it daily
A daily spray of water (except when in bloom) using a gentle misting spray will create the humid conditions these plants love.
Keeping the air moist also helps prevent red spider mites taking hold.
An alternative is to stand the pot on a tray of wet pebbles which you can periodically top up. Make sure the base of the pot isn’t sitting in water to avoid root rot.
4. Check for spider mites
These tiny red bugs, the size of a pinhead, suck sap from leaves and will weaken the plant over time. Affected leaves will develop yellow spots and, in severe cases, fine white webs.
Treat the undersides of leaves with a spray insecticide and maintain a constant humid atmosphere to keep them at bay.
5. Feed it well
Chenille plants grown indoors as houseplants will only have access to the nutrients you give them.
Keeping a pot-grown chenille plant well nourished will give it the energy it needs for flowering.
Feed it with a half-strength liquid houseplant fertiliser every two weeks throughout the main flowering period, from spring to early autumn.
6. Repot it every spring
A constrained, root-bound plant is less likely to reach its full flowering potential.
Give roots more space to spread and grow by repotting into a larger pot every spring. Use a well-drained loam-based compost.
If your plant looks otherwise healthy but just isn’t flowering, getting the light right should encourage it to bloom. If not, hopefully these tips will help you pin down the problem and fix it. Fuzzy tails ahoy!