Cuphea Plant Info: Growing And Caring For Bat Faced Plants


By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Native to Central America and Mexico, bat face cuphea plant (Cuphea llavea) is named for its interesting little bat-faced blooms of deep purple and bright red. The dense, bright green foliage provides a perfect backdrop for the masses of colorful, nectar-rich flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Bat face cuphea reaches mature heights of 18 to 24 inches (45-60 cm.) with a spread of 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm.). Read on for helpful information about growing a bat faced cuphea flower.

Cuphea Plant Info

Cuphea is perennial only in the warm climates of USDA plant hardiness zone 10 and above, but you can grow the plant as an annual if you live in a cooler climate. If you have a bright window, you may be able to bring the plant indoors for the winter.

Growing a Bat Face Cuphea Flower

The easiest way to grow cuphea flowers is to purchase bedding plants at a nursery or garden center. Otherwise, start seeds indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last hard frost in your area.

Plant bat face cuphea in full sunlight and the plant will reward you with color throughout the season. However, if your climate is extremely hot, a little afternoon shade won’t hurt.

The soil should be well drained. Dig in a few inches (7.5 cm.) of manure or compost before planting to accommodate cuphea’s need for rich organic matter.

Bat Face Plant Care

Caring for bat faced plants isn’t complicated. Water the plant regularly until the roots are well established. At that point, the plant will do fine with less water and will tolerate occasional periods of drought.

Feed cuphea monthly during the growing season, using a high quality, all-purpose fertilizer. Alternatively, provide a slow-release fertilizer in spring.

Pinch the stem tips when the plants are 8 to 10 inches (20-25 cm.) tall to create a compact, bushy plant.

If you live in a borderline climate of USDA zone 8 or 9, you may be able to overwinter bat face plant by protecting the roots with a layer of mulch – such as dry, chopped leaves or bark chips. The plant may die down, but with protection, it should rebound when temperatures rise in spring.

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Cuphea Species, Bat-Face Cuphea, Bunny Ears, St. Peter's Plant, Tiny Mice

Family: Lythraceae (ly-THRAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cuphea (KYOO-fee-uh) (Info)
Species: llavea (LAH-vay-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Cuphea barbigera
Synonym:Parsonia llavea

Category:

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Foliage:

Foliage Color:

Height:

Spacing:

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Danger:

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Seed Collecting:

Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade allow to dry

Regional

This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Huntington Beach, California

Long Beach, California(2 reports)

Oakland, California(2 reports)

Boca Raton, Florida(2 reports)

Jacksonville, Florida(2 reports)

Pensacola, Florida(2 reports)

Glendale Heights, Illinois

Elephant Butte, New Mexico

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Charleston, South Carolina

Ladys Island, South Carolina

Fort Worth, Texas(2 reports)

San Antonio, Texas(3 reports)

Gardeners' Notes:

On Aug 20, 2019, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I bought a potted plant in May 2019 from a large, diverse, conventional nursery with a greenhouse in southeast Pennsylvania. I never saw this species before. It is a broadleaf evergreen sub-shrub in its native Mexico that gets about 2.5 feet high and around 4 feet wide as it can in a large pot being used as an annual. It is sort of straggly in habit. I'll see about bringing it inside the house for winter into a cool, sunny room where I expect it to survive well and rebloom the next spring when I put it outside again. I did not experience any problems on it.

On Mar 3, 2018, CCPikie from Elmhurst, IL wrote:

Northeast Illinois, Zone 5. I've grown Cuphea llavea for several years in a hanging flowerpot. The hummingbirds like it. I've had difficulty rooting cuttings and germinating seed. Cuttings wilt without high humidity but they mold with it, even when careful to sterilize everything. Seeds sprout but tend to damp off indoors, best to sow outdoors. Worth the trouble, though.

On May 15, 2015, santamiller from San Antonio, TX wrote:

If I could only pick one flowering plant to have in my yard this would be it. It is the first thing to start blooming and the last thing to stop blooming each year. The dozens of continuous flowers are realty stunning. It will be the focal point to anyone passing by.

On Jul 19, 2013, SarahGrace from Long Beach, CA wrote:

This is a good news/bad news plant. The flowers are so pretty and cheerful and the plant is easy to grow. However, it is aggressive - I wouldn't call it invasive -- yet. I pulled it up from a small flower bed where it had completely taken over. I replanted it in a neighbor's yard (yes, she lets me) and, now, little sprouts are coming up everywhere-- my yard, her yard, three doors down. I yank the ones I don't want and nurture the ones in the right spots. Next season may tell me if this is a beauty or a beast.

On May 5, 2013, weedlaw from Bellingham, WA wrote:

Bellingham Washington Z 7-ish
Great plant for mixed containers, bat-like "faces" peek out of mixed planting all summer. QUESTION: every year I see what looks like some sort of blister mite damage on leaves have been told this is characteristic of plant and NOT insect damage. Anyone know?

On Feb 11, 2013, hymenocallis from Auburn, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

I acquired one from Amazon last may and planted it in a large planter, by summer it had filled that planter and had bloomed from day one outside. I didn't know much about this plant but I have 8 hrs of sun and it loves it. Brought it into the greenhouse in Dec. and it seems to be about to start blooming again as it has put on all new growth. Apparently I can plant it in the ground as it survived 20 plus days of 100 + temperatures last summer and didn't flinch. AN absolutely stunning plant that everyone notices!! Easy to grow.

On Oct 14, 2012, ffshoe from Bixby, OK (Zone 6b) wrote:

I love this plant! It was new for me this year. I planted it on the west side of my house, no shade at all. It not only survived but THRIVED. We had some of our hottest days this summer here in Tulsa, Oklahoma and made national news because of the heat. I cut it back a couple of times because it was so huge and coming on to the walk. I didn 't want it to get stepped on. I cut it back and it bushed out more. I don't think it is a perinneal in my zone but if we have another mild winter like we have had the past couple of years it might make it! I just loved it. I'll try to get a photo to share.
As a Tulsa Master Gardener I highly recommend this plant for our area.

On Mar 1, 2012, GreenhouseGin from Boise City, ID wrote:

I have had this plant growing in a hanging pot for about 15 years now. I move it out of my greenhouse as soon as weather permits (usually May) and then back in for the winter (usually October). Its outdoor place is hot & sunny and it gets watered daily via an automatic drip system. The only insect problems it has had are aphids (easy to fix). I cut it back twice a year (Oct & March). It blooms the entire summer, is absolutely stunning and attracts hummingbirds like crazy!

On Dec 8, 2011, Sandwichkatexan from Copperas Cove, TX wrote:

Grows like a weed in all my flowerbeds . A welcome weed however . The deer tend to eat this to the ground and it just pops right back up . Last winter killed a lot of them but the ones that survived were still green until yesterdays frost . I know they will be right back in spring however . For me they self sow not readily but they have grown and popped up in places no where near where they were originally planted . An added bonus is they attract hummingbirds , and because they do not grow very tall you can see the hummingbirds from above if you are standing up and see their beautiful plumage . In my humble opinion a great plant to fill in those spots left after our southern bulbs foliage has died off , and a great flowerbed anywhere filler .

On Nov 21, 2011, zazusmom from Huntington Beach, CA wrote:

I've had this plant in the front of a border next to the driveway, in full, hot sun. Striking color and very healthy. I've past on several cuttings and finally had to label it for folks who "need" to know what it is! Wonderful addition to the water-wise renovation of our front landscape.

On Nov 21, 2011, Anniesfollies from Carlsbad, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

Saw these this summer for the first time and fell in love. I have Bat-Face with red flowers and Tiny Mice with orange. Have them planted in the front yard for spots of color and for the hummers, butterflies and bees, and boy do they bloom with no deadheading needed! The one in partial shade did get a bit leggy and start falling over, but a pruning took care of that. I've always had red pentas where these are, but their colors are not as vivid, they did better with regular deadheading, and most needed replacing yearly, so off they went into the background with some protection. Glad to read that cuphea propagate well and am going to try some this week and plant them all over the backyard, too. Will be interesting to see how they look and if they bloom over the winter with nights in th. read more e low fifties, occasionally forties. Hopefully I'll remember to report back next spring.

On May 31, 2011, phyla from Austin, TX wrote:

Does anyone know if deer will eat or nibble this cuphea?

On Aug 6, 2010, Goingcoastal from San Diego, CA wrote:

This plant is very resilient--you can cut it back if it gets leggy or sat upon by the family dog and it 'll come right back. It thrives at NW corner bed of our house, where it can take the shade of winter or sun all afternoon in the summer. It's a cheap filler plant, because after 1 1/2 years it has spawned many baby plants around it that I'm giving away or planting elsewhere.

It looks really good grouped with red impatiens of the same hue.

On Aug 2, 2010, TraditionsPlant from Linden, TX wrote:

I bought this plant for the first time this summer to sell at my nursery. I have one in the ground, one in a large container on the patio, and one in a hanging basket. Several times a day hummingbirds come and feast at the one on the patio, and then fly across the yard to the one in the ground and then to the one in the hanging basket. Of course the ones in the container and the basket need regular watering, but the one in the ground tolerates the heat and drought very well. I love this plant!

On Jun 8, 2010, dmommylady from Sanford, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I discovered this plant at a nursery while visiting in Chattanooga. Had to buy several to bring home. Very leggy due to cramped quarters there, but I have cut it back drastically and the hairy stems are rooting with ease. I will add the purchased potted plants in a new bed and still have plenty to share!

On Apr 3, 2010, stevesivek from Seabrook, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

The abnormally cold winter this year froze it to the ground. With the first sign of spring new growth has appeared in abundance. This low growing shrub will constantly put on so many blooms that it is the first thing in the garden that catches most people's eye. Color of the bloom is much more intense than that captured by most photographs. PLANTING IN FULL SUN IS A MUST! Too much shade and the plant will look fine for awhile then slowly deteriorate until it dies.

On Jan 14, 2010, chuck7701 from McKinney, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

One of my favorite carefree plants, blooms profusely if in full sun. Pest free, bees love it. Not fond of soil drying out completely though. In my area I treat it as an annual, have not tried to overwinter in the ground or inside.

Harvest seeds from the blooms that stay on the bush for several days after flowering. Generally they hang down, and look for a bulge or split at the base of the bloom. Catch them in time or they scatter the seed. Blooms that fall off right after blooming are usually void of seeds.

On Nov 9, 2009, leiannec from Oakland, CA wrote:

This bright flowered plant has been covered with one inch flowers from may to november. I have hot pink and scarlet versions, they are great, compact growth covered in blooms, it just keeps going.

On Aug 12, 2009, CherokeeGreg from Fresno, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

A great plant the bees love it. I like the colors. It does great here in Fresno,CA

On Apr 21, 2008, grovespirit from Sunset Valley, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

In my area (Zone 11 suburban), this plant was a real pain for me to grow.

I agree that it is gorgeous when blooming, but in my location it just wasn't worth all the effort. I had an easier time growing orchids than I did growing this!

This plant was prone to numerous insect pests, and needed water every single non-rainy day too. Even when it was pest free.

It never attracted a single hummingbird or honeycreeper, either.

I am not sure if the problem was that it dislikes being grown in a 4 gallon pot, and needs to be in the ground. I don't have ground to plant in here, just a paved condominium patio.

I took it to a swap meet and traded it in for an orchid. I don't regret my decision.

On May 6, 2007, hairball from Gallitzin, PA wrote:

I noticed that PA is not listed for this plant. I live in Central PA and bought this plant last year for the first time. I had it in a planter on my deck and the hummingbirds absolutely "loved it". It flowered continueously all summer. The nursery I purchased it from no longer carries it and I've been unable to find it anywhere. It did not winter over.

On Aug 21, 2006, siobhan7 from Gainesville, FL wrote:

I found this in a local nursery and fell in love. Even though I really don't have the room so late in the summer, I had to go back and buy it. It was pretty dry, but a good dousing has perked it right up. My local hummingbirds are ecstatic. I am a little worried about the forthcoming hummer smackdowns over this plant, though!

On Apr 3, 2006, penpen from North Tonawanda, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

I purchased a small plant last year over Memorial week end when we were down in Indiana. It grew and bloomed all summer. I brought it in in the fall but got too spindly inside with limited light. I also collected seed from my plant. Seeds were very easy to germinate. Hummers loved it last summer. Hoping to have it to bloom size this year. As they aren't available for sale here in upstate NY

On Oct 16, 2005, corgimom from Pontotoc, MS (Zone 7b) wrote:

I gave this plant a try simply because of its name and planted it next to the daylily " Batman". I was amazed at its vigor all summer as we had very sporadic rainfall. It grew over onto the gravel pathway and seemed to love it. I will try propagating it for the master gardeners.

On Oct 2, 2005, pjpatter from Leon, KS wrote:

Last fall I cut my bat-face back and set the pot in our garage that never gets below freezing in the winter. To my surprise, it had some very spindly growth on it by early spring. I started watering it and later set the pot outdoors when the weather warmed up. Very large specimen this year since it already had a nice root system. Worth a try to overwinter in the northern zones. I plan to see if I can do it 2 years in a row.

On Jul 8, 2005, poohrona from Maud, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant is stunning. By far one of my favorites. I only bought it because it looked unique at a discount store and I am so pleased. Looking forward to planting more from seed I get off of it.

On Jun 27, 2005, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Also works well in hanging baskets. unique touch of color.

On Jun 27, 2005, Enigel from Pensacola, FL wrote:

Wonderful plant, but it seems to mind being. planted! Last year (in May) I bought it in a one gallon pot, I planted it in carefully prepared soil, in filtered light and. it died! Since I'm very much into giving plants a second (and third. ) chance, I did not pull it out of the ground. After a couple of weeks it came back with a vengeance and now it is one of the most beautiful plants in my garden. Therefore, a couple of weeks ago I could not resist buying another one gallon pot. I did the same thing as last year and, guess what, this second plant also died! This morning I noticed some tiny-tiny green leaves on the dead body, so I guess the same thing is happening again. The moral of my story is - no matter what, do not pull it out! It will come back and make you very happy with its be. read more auty. By the way, I have planted hundreds of plants and I only had this stresfull experience three times: two with the bat-faced lady and once with "Lion's Ear" (Leonotis leonurus). Anybody has an explanation?

On Apr 21, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

Only in Nature could bright red and deep purple result in a pleasing color combination, but it definitely is a winner with this plant!

I'm glad to learn it is so easy to propagate from stem cuttings. I'll take some cuttings and spread it around in my butterfly/hummingbird garden.

On Jun 26, 2004, CJSORROW from Macon, GA wrote:

My mom picked up a broken stem of this plant, took it home, and about a month later this thing is absolutly one of the most prolific plants that she has ever brought home. Unfortunatly here in Georgia, this plant is not readily available. My mom has taken to rooting and giving away offshoots of her "bat-faced" plant. I don't think we have ever had a plant that requires LESS work than this one.

On May 19, 2004, pauhana from Mount Holly, NJ wrote:

I purchased this plant discounted late summer last year. I made several huge pots from propagating clippings and gave them all away but one small pot. These gifts brought happiness to the handicapped, elderly and myself and was easy to care for. Overwintering was unsuccessful for every plant I gave away. Death in my family caused me to allow my remaining pot to sadly dry out and die. I have been looking for this plant to purchase in NJ ever since. The garden center I purchased it from no longer carries it. If anyone knows where I can purchase one again I would be thrilled. I also will begin propagating immediately for more sharing!
pauhana

On May 5, 2004, bayouposte from Bossier City, LA (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant always makes me smile. I love the cheerful colors as well as the "bat face" and always think of Paul Simon and "bat face girl" when I look at it.

On Mar 8, 2004, bagpypr from Redlands, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Cuphea llavea (syn. C. x purpurea) is a native of the streambeds of the Mexican desert.

On Jan 3, 2004, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Edgewood, Washington
Most definately a tender annual here. Does add bright color to mixed pots, but the blooms are rather small. Perhaps just too cool here for it to be at its best.

On Oct 6, 2003, jazmama from Santa Cruz, CA wrote:

Amazing plant - the pride of my garden. It came out of a one gallon pot, went into clay soil amended with an organic compost mix, and after 2 seasons it is over 4' wide, 3' deep, and 2' tall. It's happy to be ignored, which is good because there are always so many bees around it that it can be difficult to work around. Other than that, it is an absolute joy. A wonderful eye-catcher!

On Jul 30, 2003, Cajun2 from (Carole) Cleveland, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

When I first saw this plant, I HAD to HAVE it! I planted it in my front flowerbed in full sun and it hasn't quit blooming since! I absolutely adore it and will have it in my garden from now on! FANTASTIC!

On Jun 18, 2003, whoopinaggie from Richmond, TX wrote:

Wonderful plant that comes back year after year. It dies back in the winter and then comes back with a fury in the spring. It is constantly blooming until the first freeze (which in south east texas is about late december) and loves the weather down here. Very droughtand heat tolerant. I have it growing on the edge of the patio and it actually seems to prefer growing towards and on the cement even though we have many summer days of over 95 F!! I have never seen this plant wilt while many of the other drought tolerant plants do in the heat of the summer days. This plant is extremely easy to grow and you don't have to fuss with it. Cutting grow very easy and it is a nice conversation plant due to its strange flower shape. I must have plant in the hot, humid south.

Great plant that blooms all summer. In my zone (6) it is an annual. I placed it on my deck in a planter and found that hummingbirds love it!

On Aug 22, 2002, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have really enjoyed having this in my garden this year.It has bloomed all summer and sure added color to my flower beds.

On Jul 30, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.,
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

Easy to grow, but an annual in my zone 6b. Blooms profusely.


Bat plant is a native of Mexico where it grows along stream banks, so the plant is only slightly drought-tolerant and requires regular watering during hot, dry weather. A deep watering approximately once every week is enough, as infrequent, deep watering helps develops long, sturdy roots that tolerate dry conditions. Water a containerized plant until water runs through the drainage hole. Allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again so air circulates freely around the roots. Avoid keeping the soil soggy, which may lead to stem rot and other diseases.

Fertilizer isn't an absolute requirement for bat plants, but a light application of a balanced, controlled-release fertilizer in midsummer and early fall improves blooming, especially if the soil is poor. Container-grown bat plants benefit from a water-soluble fertilizer applied according to label specifications. Follow the fertilizer application with a deep watering, which distributes the fertilizer around the roots and prevents scorching.


Plant Library

Small, freely branching shrub or subshrub with unusual tubular flowers lipped with upward facing petals that look like bat ears and the purple tips resemble the face great for bedding, shrub borders, and containers in warm climates

Bat Face Cuphea has green foliage. The pointy leaves remain green throughout the winter. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Bat Face Cuphea is a multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with an upright spreading habit of growth. Its average texture blends into the landscape, but can be balanced by one or two finer or coarser trees or shrubs for an effective composition.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. It is a good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Bat Face Cuphea is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting

Bat Face Cuphea will grow to be about 30 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 30 inches. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn't necessarily require facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 10 years.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone in winter to protect it in exposed locations or colder microclimates. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

Bat Face Cuphea makes a fine choice for the outdoor landscape, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. With its upright habit of growth, it is best suited for use as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. It is even sizeable enough that it can be grown alone in a suitable container. Note that when grown in a container, it may not perform exactly as indicated on the tag - this is to be expected. Also note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Plant Cupheas for Summer Flowers, Hummingbirds, and More

Cuphea ignea
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox

Cupheas are perennials that produce bright orange, red, yellow or purple flowers all summer and fall. Some species are called cigar plants due to their tubular, cigar shaped flowers tipped in red or yellow (like a lit cigar). Others are sometimes called firecracker plants because their cylindrical flowers are bright red or orange (looking like a firecracker). By any name, their nectar-filled, tubular flowers are widely known for attracting large numbers of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. In addition, young stems of some species are reddish, further adding color and contrast to the usually narrow, lance-shaped green foliage.

As a group, cupheas grow best in full to part sun (the brighter, the better) and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. Cupheas are drought tolerant once established, but grow faster and larger with regular moisture and occasional fertilization. Their origins in warm climates allow them to thrive in heat, but likewise make some species sensitive to cold winters. Those that are frost tender along the Gulf Coast are best placed in a sheltered location in the garden. Cupheas are pest and disease resistant and are not invasive in Florida. They are not truly deer resistant, yet reports suggest cupheas are not favored by deer.

Cupheas are great summer performers in bright, hot and dry locations. Flowering begins in summer and continues through fall until short days and cool weather reduce flowering or frosts cause dieback. Along the Gulf Coast, cool winter weather slows them down, so re-growth doesn’t occur until mid to late spring, and flowering usually doesn’t begin until days and nights are warm. Growth and appearance of many cupheas are improved if plants are pruned or cut to the ground in late winter.

Over 200 species of Cuphea are native to Mexico and the warm-temperate and tropical Americas. Of these and their hybrids, the cupheas listed below are great summer-flowering perennials for the northern Gulf Coast.

Cuphea micropetala
Photo courtesty: Gary Knox

Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea)

This fine-textured plant produces red to orange tubular flowers about an inch long. This cigar plant is hardy to about 20°F. It grows about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide along the Gulf Coast, though it would be a larger, evergreen shrub in warmer climates. This cuphea tends to have lanky growth, so occasional summer pruning will stimulate branching which results in more dense growth.

Cigar Plant or Candy Corn Plant (Cuphea micropetala)

Flowers are 1.5 inches long, emerge pale yellow and gradually turn orange from the base upwards, offering a colorful, two-tone effect. Foliage is hardy to 25-30°F and this cigar plant is root hardy to at least 15°F. Stems should be cut back to ground level in late winter to keep the plant tidy. Clumps spread slowly outward by rhizomes, and the plant will reach 3 feet tall and wide along the Gulf Coast.

Cuphea schumannii
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox

Orange Cigar Plant or Schumann’s Cuphea (Cuphea schumannii)

This sprawling, floriferous cigar plant prefers moist, well-drained soil to thrive. Barrel-shaped, 1- to 1½-inch blooms are orange and yellow and sometimes have small purple petals at the tips. Flowers cover the branch terminals in the heat of summer and into fall. This plant is hardy in Zones 8 to 9 (at least down to the mid 20s°F). Unlike many other cupheas, leaves of orange cigar plant are oval- to heart-shaped. Stems grow 2 to 3 feet tall and readily flop or fall over. Plan to give orange cigar plant lots of room to sprawl through the garden!

Cuphea ‘David Verity’
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox

‘David Verity’ Large Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ignea × micropetala ‘David Verity’)

This floriferous hybrid produces flowers that are dark orange with a short yellow-orange flared tip and purple filamentts. Well-adapted to the Gulf Coast, this plant is foliage hardy down to 25-30°F and root hardy to at least 15°F. In Zone 9 this plant will grow as an evergreen shrub up to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, but it will be smaller in areas where frost or freezes occur. This selection is believed to be a hybrid between Cuphea ignea and C. micropetala that was given in the mid 1970s to David Verity, then the manager of the UCLA Mildred Mathias Botanic Garden. It was subsequently named for him when later brought into commercial production.

‘Vermillionaire ® ’ Large Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire ® ’)

This new hybrid appears to be a superior cuphea because it grows as a naturally compact plant that produces more flowers than other selections. ‘Vermillionaire®’ grows about 24 inches or more tall and wide with a compact, mounding habit. Orange tubular flowers are produced continuously until late fall. This cuphea is too new to know the full extent of its hardiness, but it is expected to be a perennial in Zones 8 and higher.

Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)

Unlike the previous cupheas, this plant has small purple flowers, and some selections sport white flowers. Another difference is Mexican heather’s finely textured, bright green leaves. Gulf Coast Zone 8 plants are usually killed to the ground in winter, often recovering by summer but resulting in a compact plant growing less than 24 inches tall and wide. In Zones 9 and higher, Mexican heather is a larger-growing semi-evergreen tropical shrub. Reported pests are leaf-chewing beetles (Altica and Colaspis spp.) and the twig-dwelling lesser snow scale (Pinnaspis strachani). Mexican heather works well for edging beds or sidewalks, helping to define and soften pathways. Cultivars include Allyson, Lavender Lace, Purple Nurple™ and the white-flowered Monga (Itsy Bitsy° White) and ‘White Whispers’.

Bat-Faced Cuphea
Photo courtesy: Gary Knox

Each 1-inch flower consists of a purple tube lipped with two red, upright lobes. By viewing the flower with its tip facing you, it takes only a little imagination to see the two red lobes resemble large “ears” above the purple “face” of a bat, hence the name. Along the Gulf Coast, bat face cuphea grows mound-shaped 8 to 24 inches tall and wide, depending upon the selection. It is very heat and drought tolerant but requires better drainage than the other cupheas. Bat face cuphea is evergreen down to the upper 20s°F and root hardy into the lower 20s°F. Improved forms of bat face cuphea include the cultivars, Flamenco Samba, Georgia Scarlet, Mellow Yellow, Miss Priss, Tiny Mice®, Sriracha™ Pink, Sriracha™ Violet, Torpedo, Vienco° Lavender and Vienco° Red.


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