How to Care for Copperleaf Plant – 7 Unmissable Tips

The Copperleaf Plant, or Acalypha wilkesiana, is a super easy to care for, fast-growing tropical shrub. It’s not the most low-maintenance plant in the world, but it is simple to maintain. The key thing you’ve got to do is regular waterings, this plant is not particularly drought tolerant. The scientific name for this plant hails from Ancient Greece. The genus name Acalypha comes from the Greek name for nettles, because of the nettle-like shape of the Copperleaf plant’s leaves.

copperleaf plant

Table of Contents 

What Kind of Light Does Copper Plant Like?

Copper plants need around six to seven hours of bright, natural light. Copper leaf plants thrive in lots of sun. If you live somewhere chilly and gray like I do, then you’ll want to give your plants the best chance and just put them as close to the south-facing window as possible. This plant is moderately shade tolerant but it won’t thrive unless it’s in full sun, with some direct light. You could consider supplementing your homes’ natural light with some grow lights. 

Your plant will experience stunted growth with leggy branches that lean towards the light if they are not receiving enough sunlight. When the Copper leaf plant gets too little light the leaves will also pale and turn yellow. However, there is the danger also of giving them too much light which can also cause stunted growth but will be accompanied by brown patches on the leaves and stem. The leaves might also become crispy and crunchy around the edges.

copperleaf plant leaf close up

How Often Should I Water My Copper Plant?

Copper plants like to have consistently moist soil. In other words they should not be drying out fully between waterings. Depending on where you live and how hot your home is this could be twice a week or more! It’s important not to stick too thoroughly to a schedule for plant care but to check regularly and learn the signs that your plant will give out. 

That being said, it’s important not to overwater your plants. If in doubt you should err on the side of caution and water them less frequently. Copperleaf plants will not appreciate waterlogged conditions. These plants can technically grow in drought-tolerant conditions but their growth and foliage will look considerably better and bigger if you water them regularly and consistently. 

Here’s How to Check If the Soil Is Dry / Needs Watering:

Finger or a Stick: 

When the top 1 inch of the soil feels dry and your finger comes out of the soil clean (the wet soil sticks, the dry soil falls off) it’s time to water your plant. If you don’t want to use your finger just use a stick or similar for the same process.

Moisture Meter:

Keep your moisture meter in the soil at all times or stick it in to test the moisture levels every week or so and when the soil is dry, give the plant a drink. Make sure to not have the moisture meter too deep in the soil or the plant will end up underwatered. 

If you are increasing the humidity surrounding the plant then make sure to decrease the frequency of watering as plants lose less water in a humid environment. If the light levels or temperatures are going to increase then it can be beneficial to water your plant slightly more often.

copperleaf plants in sunshine

Personally, I find bottom watering the most effective way to care for most of my plants. Use lukewarm water (cold or hot water can shock the roots) in a container, allow your plant to sit in the water for roughly twenty or thirty minutes, just watch for when the plant stops absorbing water. Bottom watering encourages strong roots as the plant has to grow downwards to find the nutrients it needs. A stronger root system will help your plant in the long run. So don’t be discouraged or disappointed if your plant is putting out more roots than foliage to begin with, it’s all part of the process. 

The most important thing is to not stick rigidly to a schedule. Whilst consistency is good for a plant it’s okay to wait longer to water or to water early when you think it’s appropriate. 

Here’s a guide to how each factor in your home affects the watering schedule: 

FactorIncrease or decrease in watering 
Humidity increaseDecrease
Temperature increaseIncrease
Light increaseIncrease
Bigger Pot SizeDecrease 
Age of plantYoung plants require more water 

Do Copper Plants Like the Warmth? 

This is very important. As these plants are fast growing tropical shrubs from Fiji and the wider South Pacific Islands they will be very very unhappy if they get too cold. Sometimes things are just out of your control and you can’t change that. Even so wherever possible you’ll want to make sure that your Copper plant doesn’t experience temperatures lower than 45ºF. The foliage will begin to die at temperatures of 41ºF or lower. 

red acalypha wilkesiana with sunshine

You’ll want to be vigilant to keep an eye out for brown edges, crispy leaves, dull leaf color, yellowing, wilting or stunted growth near any dry spots in your home. These tend to be around chilly windows, spots of hot morning sun, near radiators, fans or big electric devices. The air around these things can experience extreme temperatures, the cold can shock the plant and the heat can scorch the leaves.

Do Acalypha wilkesiana Need High Humidity?

These plants are going to need more humidity than is naturally available (probably) in your home. Tons of people recommend misting but I strongly advise that you do not do this. Create a humid environment using a humidifier if need be, check out this guide for finding the best one: 10 best humidifiers for plants. 

Copper plants enjoy a 50% relative humidity. This is considered moderate to high humidity.

Misting encourages pests and sunburn by creating pools of stagnant water – I highly recommend you do not let any water sit in your plant or pot.

Alternatively, if you want to boost humidity in your home without spending any money on a humidifier there’s a few DIY tricks. Grouping plants together – plants lose moisture in their leaves, by grouping many plants together they create a more humid microclimate.

red acalypha wilkesiana close up

Here are the main signs your philodendron plant needs some more humidity: 

  • Brown edges/ crispy leaves 
  • Dull color
  • Yellow leaves
  • Wilting 
  • Stunted Growth 

Do Copper Plants Need Fertilizer?  

A plant that has such lovely flowers will sometimes need a little extra help since the plant will be doing so much work to bloom! The Copper Plant is a moderate feeder, maintaining its foliage and supporting new growth needs a well-fertilized soil. I’d recommend using a well-balanced fertilizer, which is one with a ratio such as 10-10-10 or similar. 

Feed the Copper plant approximately twice a month, during the growing season (spring and summer) and stop fertilizing during the winter. The twice a month figure only applies to use of liquid fertilizer, granular fertilizer is generally applied once or twice a year.

Personally, I prefer to use a water-soluble fertilizer as it’s easier to control than the granular fertilizer. However, they’re both suitable options, just go with whichever you want!

Liquid fertilizers are great because they are easier to control and use, but they need to be used more often. They tend to have a lower salt content too, which makes them better for use with young, sensitive plants. Additionally, the nutrients in a liquid fertilizer are mobile and can reach the roots more easily, which is great for young plants with undeveloped root systems. Granular fertilizer or fertilizer pellets are much cheaper, easier to store and don’t need to be used as frequently. The drawback with these fertilizers is that they’re harder to use and you have less control over the nutrients.

green copperleaf plants sunshine

Can I Propagate the Copper Plant? 

You can propagate the Copperleaf Plant with stem cuttings at any time of year. But if you live somewhere with extreme cold seasons, I’d recommend waiting until spring. 

Take a cutting of your plant, using sterile materials to reduce the chance of infection in your plantlets. You’ll want to take a piece that’s around 3 inches long. Dip the cutting in rooting hormone and then plant into a small pot using a very coarse potting mix.

Cover the cutting with a transparent plastic cover, such as a ziploc bag or half of a water bottle. Aim to keep these cuttings warm, moist and humid, potentially you’ll want a heating mat. Remove the cover when new growth begins to appear. 

Once the plantlets have started growing and appear to be rooted you can repot the cuttings  into slightly larger pots with a nice, well-draining soil mixture. 

Does the Copperleaf Plant Get Pests and Diseases? 

Unfortunately, this plant is prone to a few pests and diseases that it’s important to know about in order to put into place best practices. Mealybugs and spider mites are your primary concern when growing this plant as a houseplant. You can combat these nasty bugs with neem oil, dish soap or an insecticidal spray. 

Pests are more common in plants that are grown in partial shade or are over-watered. The best way to get rid of pests is to practice pest prevention. Once you have them they’re a lot harder to deal with. Always ensure you let old, stagnant water drain away from the saucer of the plant, also avoid misting your plants as this can also attract pests. I’d advise to always sterilize your plant tools before using them as this is a key source of infection for houseplants. 

red acalypha wilkesiana grey background

About the Copper Plant

The Copperleaf plant is a beautiful, show-stopping shrub that grows in warm areas like Florida and is native to Fiji and the surrounding Islands. The common names for the Acalypha wilkesiana include Copperleaf plant, Jacob’s coat and Flamengueira. These plants come in a range of varieties that showcase colors of red, pink, white and green. More and more new cultivars of plants are being developed to give way to cool plants like the Inferno and Tricolor Copperleaf.

green copperleaf plant


Is the common copper leaf poisonous?

The copperleaf plant gets the go-ahead for pets as it is considered non-toxic for both cats and dogs. It is however considered mildly toxic to humans when ingested in large-quantities and can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. 

What is the medicinal use of copper leaf?

Copperleaf plants are used medicinally but usually as a topical treatment. It is used to speed up the healing  process of wounds and ulcers.

We Think the Copper Plant is Pure Gold!

This plant is simply an iconic one, it has the most striking foliage that debut a myriad of colors and it is not to be missed.  For the most part, this plant is super easy to care for, simply keeping the soil consistently moist and providing fertilizer throughout the growing season.   

Happy Growing!

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Photo of author
Katie Riggs
Katie’s love of plants began at a young age, in fact it was the first time she went camping and discovered the medicinal wonders of a dock leaf that the fascination with all things botanical took hold. Spending time in nature and frequently visiting the Kew Gardens, she became obsessed with the diversity of plants you could grow at home. Her favorite things to grow are herbs and vegetables outdoors as well as her prized fiddle leaf fig and calathea orbifolia. Hundreds of mistakes later she has become well versed in how not to kill a houseplant. Her passions now involve sharing her love of nature and all things green to help other people keep their plants happy and healthy.

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