METRO PLUS

Flashy foliage

THE GENUS Acalypha belonging to family Euphorbiacea comes from New Guinea. Acalypha Wilkesiana has tiny insignificant flowers, but is prized for its attractive foliage. Its pointed oval leaves, which are about 10-cm long and 5-cm wide are a copper green, mottled and streaked with copper red and purple. It is fast growing and develops quickly into shrubs about 1� to 2-m in height. To keep them within bounds, they must be cut annually, taking out about half the previous year's growth.

This extremely colourful plant loves the hot sun and long summers of our region. In adequate light, they tend to become spindly and lose much of their leaf colouring. Mist spray daily and water enough to keep the soil moist. Apply liquid fertilizer during active growth only. The plant will branch and become bushy naturally and so, it is never necessary to pinch out growing tips.

Flashy foliage

Wilkesiana is popularly used as hedge, borders and in pots. In Chennai, one comes across the plant alternatively planted with Pisonia alba, where the leaves of Acalypha contrasts well with the pale green leaves of Pisonia. In Hyderabad's K.B.R. Garden (walkway garden) you can see beautiful hedges of Wilkesiana along the pathway and surrounding the rocks. Propagation is done by soft cuttings, planted in rich, well-drained soil, in full sunlight.

Wilkesiana is also known as Touch-me-if-you-can and Fire Dragon plant. Another variety of Wilkesiana has shiny green leaves with yellow margins. These plants are vulnerable to mealy bugs and spider mites. Watch out for these pests, which can do damage. Mist spray with appropriate pesticide. A good plant, all year round.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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