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Alternanthera ficoidea (photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Co.)
Alternanthera ficoidea (photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Co.)

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Zone
Zones A1-A3, 1-24, H1, H2
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Alternanthera ficoidea

Joseph’s Coat, Parrot Leaf
Amaranthaceae
Annuals, Perennials

This unique foliage plant, native from Mexico to Argentina, grows 6–12 in. high and spreads variably. Its leaves often resemble artists’ watercolors.

Among the many varieties are ‘Bettzickiana’ (A. bettzickiana), sometimes called calico plant, with spoon-shaped leaves blotched yellow and red; ‘Green Machine’, with dark green, quilted leaves; ‘Red Threads’, with narrow, burgundy leaves; ‘Versicolor’, with broad green leaves marked with yellow and pink veins; and ‘White Carpet’, with puckered green leaves boldly edged in white. A form from Thailand that is grown in Hawaii has larger green leaves with irregular white margins.

Plant 4–10 in. apart for best impact. Alternanthera is useful as an edging or groundcover and accepts most well-drained soils. It will take some shade but is not salt-tolerant. Striking in containers among other potted tropicals. Easy to grow from cuttings. Keep plants compact by shearing.

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