CUPHEA

FAMILY: Lythraceae

TYPE
  • Perennials
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
  • CS (Coastal South) / Zone 9
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 10
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 11

Plant Details

These natives of Mexico and Cen- tral America provide color through- out warm months; use them in small beds, as formal edging for borders, along paths, in contain- ers. Flowers attract hummingbirds. Pinch tips of shoots for compact growth; severely cut back older plants in late fall or early spring. Reliably perennial only in frost-free areas, but may survive light frosts in Coastal South. Easy to grow from cuttings.

C. cyanea. VIOLET CUPHEA. Can reach 6 ft. in its native Mexico, but usually half that tall and wide in home gardens; as an annual, it grows 11 ft. high. Medium to dark green, ovate leaves 23 in. long. Each tubular, - to 1-in.-long flower is bright pink with a yellow tip and two earlike violet-blue petals.

C. hyssopifolia. HAWAIIAN HEATHER, MEXICAN HEATHER. To 12 ft. tall, about 2 ft. wide. Flexible, leafy branchlets clothed in very narrow, - to -in.-long, medium to dark green leaves. Tiny flowers (scarcely half as long as leaves) in pink, purple, or white. Plants in the Itsy Bitsy Series grow 8 in. high and 6 in. wide, and are excellent rock garden plants. 'Caribbean Sunset', to 2 ft. tall, has orange blooms. 'Riverdene Gold', 1 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, has golden foliage and deep pink blooms.

C. ignea. CIGAR PLANT. Leafy, compact plant to 1 ft. or taller, as wide as tall. Narrow, dark green leaves, 11 in. long. The flowers explain the cigar of the common name: They're tubular, in. long, bright orange-red with white tip and dark ring at end. Flowers of 'Lutea' are a very soft yellow; those of 'Petite Peach' are a light peach. 'David Verity' has orange-red blooms. 'Starfire' has a pink flower tube and purple petals.

C. llavea. BAT-FACED CUPHEA. To 23 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Medium green leaves to 3 in. long. Red-and-purple, 1-in.-long flowers are said to look like a bat's face. Occasionally spreads by seed in gardens. Though cultivated in the desert, it is not drought tolerantin nature, it grows along stream banks in Mexico. Compact varieties (1216 in. high, 18 in. wide) include 'Flamenco Rumba', coral red flowers; 'Flamenco Tango', vibrant pink blooms; and 'Totally Tempted', bright red blooms.

C. micropetala. GIANT CIGAR PLANT. To 4 ft. tall, 34 ft. wide. Arching stems, each closely set with narrow, 5-in., medium green leaves and topped by a slender, spikelike cluster of 1-in., bright red flowers tipped with yellow. Deciduous in cold weather.

C. x purpurea. Hybrid to 11 ft. high and wide, good for ground covers and hanging baskets. Red flowers to 1 in. long; dark green leaves to 3 in. long. 'Firecracker', bearing dark purple flowers with two earlike bright red petals, thrives in Southern heat and humidity. 'Firefly' bears magenta petals with a white ring in the center and is equally well adapted.

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