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Updated: 07/28/2014 08:00:00AM

Red caterpillars? Not quite ...

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The dwarf chenille plant resembles a cluster of red caterpillars.

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If you did not know what you were looking at, you might think that these bright red, fuzzy, squiggly looking things were actually red caterpillars! While they may catch the eye, they are simply the attractive flowers of the dwarf chenille plant. A mini relative of the larger upright chenille plant and others in the copperleaf family, the dwarf chenille plant barely gets 6 inches tall, but may spread several feet wide. An interesting groundcover as well as a subject for hanging baskets, the dwarf chenille plant is worth a look.

About nine years ago, a Master Gardener volunteer planted several dwarf chenille plants in our Demonstration Garden at the East Port Environmental Campus. The planting was part of a comparative groundcover display. Despite some freeze damage during the winter, they survived and are still growing as of this date. At their best in full, they form a thick layer of small-leaved plants topped with free-standing fuzzy, red, 2-inch-long flowers. Full sun is essential for best flowering. In groundcover settings, space each plant about 18 inches apart for best coverage. They do not like to be walked on, so keep foot traffic off this groundcover. Also consider using a dwarf chenille plant at the edge of a wall so that it cascades over the edge, or use it as a feature in a rock garden. Dwarf chenille plants are also very happy in hanging baskets which allows them to spill over the edge of the container. There are several species of dwarf chenille plants, and one selected cultivar called “Raspberry Fuzzies,” is especially suggested for hanging baskets.

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