The Multi-Coloured Copperleaf to Try Out

Different flower species planted in Mombasa. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG
Different flower species planted in Mombasa. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG 

An evergreen shrub, copperleaf, also known as Acalypha wilkesiana which has brightly coloured foliage, red, purple and green, is one of the indoor plants to try out this season.

Its large leaves look bushy if over-planted in one place, so it’s best to grow them sparingly at different focal points.

I met Morgan Osiolo, a florist in Nyali, Mombasa watering the copperleaf which has fine-looking, speckled leaves in a garden.

The leaves are large, oval and alternate along the stems with smooth and hairy white flowers.

“Copperleaf propagates easily from stem cuttings, one can use rooting hormones to spur the growth of the roots,” he said.

Mr Osiolo said that the flower grows well either outside or in partial shade.

“The leaves become brightly coloured when planted in a shade. Full sun may distort its colour. Those grown indoors should be placed near bright, indirect light to enhance their foliage colour,” he said as he wiped off the dust from the leaves.

The florist uses clean cotton to wipe off the dust on the edges which are noticeably toothed and sometimes differ in colour from the rest of the leaf.

“The plants grow fast and watering them at a stipulated time will ensure they look greener and sparkly,” he said.

It grows with fibrous roots to 2.4 metres to 4.6 metres. It is also shrubby, therefore it should be pruned to reduce congestion.

Consider repotting

“It can also be used as a bedding plant, feature plant or in a mixed border. Also it can be planted in a hanging basket. When one nips off the tip of the flower, the flower automatically forms branches,” said the florist.

In a pot, use a large well- drained one to relieve its fibrous roots from stress. Soil should be kept evenly moist but do not overwater it because waterlogged soil will cause the plant to wilt.

“Also, one may consider repotting the plants because they grow very fast,” he added.

The cultivars produce reddish flowers in hanging spikes called catkins.

They are followed by capsule fruits filled with tiny hard seeds which Mr Osiolo said can take about two months in the soil to sprout.

The copperleaf is vulnerable to aphids, hence spray it regularly.

This plant ranges from Sh500 to Sh1,000 depending on the season and its demand.