The Copperleaf Plants

Most plants in the Euphorbiaceae are fairly recognizable as such. These are stranger plants from this family. Acalypha is a large mostly tropical genus of plants consisting of well over 450 species. We have just a few native to our region.

Ours are referred to generally as copperleaf plants, and are mostly small shrubs that are frost tender, or go dormant in the winter and need to be cut back. Most species in our region are annual herbs. The perennial shrubs we suggest can take full to part sun and moderate water. The species listed are the most likely available. The California copperleaf is native to Arizona while rasperry fuzzies is native to the Chihuahuan desert in Texas and south into Chihuahua.

California Copperleaf
(Acalypha californica)

acalypha californica.jpg

The plant bears beautiful light green serrated leaves with wavy hairy edges. This small shrub, usually to about 1 m high, has reddish spikes of pistillate flowers. Younger leaves tend to have pink or red edges. Older leaves turn pinkish or copper-colored in summer months. Stems are white, pink or red. Flowers appear as bumpy pinkish red spikes, sometimes with white speckles, growing out from the base of the leaf stems. It typically grows in a rounded mounding form. This is the only species of Acalypha to be found in California. Look for this species in Arizona in Pima county in chaparral and oak woodland communities. Also occurs south in Mexico.

Rasperry fuzzies
(Acalypha monostachya)


This groundcover has copper colored foliage and unique fuzzy hot pink to red flowers, blooming profusely all through the warm months. It is deciduous, and should be cut back once frost has nipped the foliage. It is quite root hardy, and will flush out quickly once the weather warms up. It thrives in full sun and reflected heat locations and tolerates poor soils. It is native to the Chihuahuan desert.

Katherine Gierlach