Acalypha wilkesiana: Copperleaf

Family: Euphorbiaceae
Common name: Copperleaf, Jacob’s coat, Firedragon

There are so many varieties of Copperleaf plants that I was surprised each time I came across one, and my plant identification app assured me that it’s Copperleaf. These plants come in varieties of colors, leaf patterns, leaf shapes and sizes, and plant height. They usually grow to a height of 3 meters with a spread of about 2-3 meters.

Copperleaf stems are erect and branching, covered with fine hairs. Like Coleus plants or Variegated crotons, the most prominent feature is the leaf, brightly colored with a copper sheen. There are light red leaves, bright copper leaf, dark maroon leaves, light or dark green leaves, and variegated green leaves with toothed edges.

In some species, the toothed edges are colored differently, giving a bright outline to the leaf. In some other species, the leaves are twisted in weird ways, and the edges are very prominently toothed.

Copperleaf plants are grown as ornamental plants, both indoors and outdoors, loved for their brightly colored foliage. They are fast-growing plants, which need to be pruned to keep them shrubby and fuller. These plants have male and female flowers, though they are inconspicuous and insignificant compared to the leaves. Since Copperleaf plants are fast-growing, they need regular watering and a well-drained soil.

Good sunlight brings out the colors of the leaves beautifully, though extreme heat can cause the leaves to brown around the edges. When grown indoors, they should kept in a sunny spot where they can get direct sunlight for at least couple of hours a day. Repotting is essential for Copperleaf plants to ensure that the roots do not get squeezed in a small pot.

They have some medicinal uses in treatment of skin infections. But Copper leaf plants are themselves susceptible to infections from mealy bugs and mites. Any sign of infection should be addressed immediately by spraying neem oil, or by applying ethanol to the stems and leaves with a brush.

Propagation is from stem cuttings.

Image credits:, Sindhu Menon

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