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How to Grow and Care for Alternanthera


Alternanthera is a tropical perennial grown for its colorful leaves. The leaves are green and variegated with yellow, red, orange, purple, or bronze. Alternanthera grows to 12 inches (30cm) tall.

Alternanthera can grow bushy or ground-hugging. It is often grown outdoors as a border plant in tropical and subtropical regions. It is grown as a houseplant in cool, temperate regions.

The leaves of Alternanthera become more colorful and luscious with exposure to light.

Alternanthera is a genus of about 100 species native to forests in tropical Central and South America.

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Get to Know Alternanthera 

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 11-12
  • Optimal growing temperature: day, 80° to 85°F (27° to 29°C); night, 62° to 65°F (17° to 18°C).  
  • Height and width: 12 inches (30cm) tall and wide
  • Foliage:  Ground-hugging or erect bushy plant that grows to 12 inches (30cm) tall. Small, paired leaves are green and variegated with yellow, red, orange, purple, or bronze. 
  • Flowers: Insignificant flowers borne in terminal axillary spikes
  • Bloom time:  Summer
  • Uses: Houseplant,  outdoors as a border plant in a tropical garden
  • Common name: Copperleaf, Joseph’s coat, parrot leaf  
  • Botanical name:  Alternanthera
  • Family name: Amaranthaceae
  • Origin: Forests in tropical Central and South America
Alternanthera ficoidea
Alternanthera ficoidea

Where to Plant Alternanthera 

  • Light: Give Alternanthera direct light, a warm temperature, and average humidity. 
  • Light indoors: Bright light, full sun from southern exposure. 
  • Light outdoors: Grow in full sun for the best leaf color, or in partial shade.  
  • Soil: Grow Alternanther in moist well-drained soil rich in organic matter; add an all-purpose soil mix.  

When to Plant Alternanthera 

  • Set outdoors Alternanthera in the garden in tropical and subtropical climates any time of the year.

Planting and Spacing Alternanthera 

  • Space  Alternanthera 12 inches (30cm) apart.

How to Water and Feed Alternanthera 

  • Water: Keep soil evenly moist, not soggy, Humidity of 50% is best.
  • Feeding: Fertilize Alternanthera monthly, with mild liquid fertilizer. Fertilize in spring and summer. 

Alternanthera Care  

  • Alternanthera will rest slightly after blooming; during the rest period keep the plant in a cool location, 60°F (16°C). gradually decrease water, keeping the soil barely moist 

Growing Alternanthera as a Houseplant

  • Give Alternanthera direct light, a warm temperature, and average humidity.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize in spring and summer.
  • Pinch the stems back to control leggy growth and encourage bushiness.

Alternanthera Pests and Diseases  

  • Alternanthera is susceptible to aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. 

Alternanthera Propagation  

  • Propagate Alternanthera from stern cuttings and pot in an all-purpose soil mix. By division or stem cuttings.  

Alternanthera Varieties to Grow  

  • Alternanthera ficoidea. Forms a low-growing mat of green leaves that may be highlighted with red, purple, or bronze. 
  • A. f. ‘Amoena’ grows in a bushy form to 9 inches tall; with dense branches with reddish brown leaves covered with patterns, veins, and blotches of light red and orange.   
  • A. f. ‘Bettzickiana’ grows in a rounded, bushy form. Leaves are narrow, contorted, and may be solid green, cream, oink, salmon-red or a combination of these colors.  
  • A. f. ‘Versicolor’, copperleaf. Coppery red foliage in plenty of sun, becoming green and bronze in low light; wavy edges are pink or white.  

Alternanthera Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I grow Alternanthera from seed?

A: Alternanthera can not be grown from seed. It is propagated by cuttings. Take cuttings from Alternanthera at the end of the summer, overwinter them in the house, and plant them out the following spring after all danger of frost has passed.

Q: What growing conditions does Alternanthera like?

A: Plant in full sun in a warm location with average garden soil. The plants grow neat and are perfect for creating designs, as well as for edgings to formal plantings.

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