How to Plant and Grow Cuphea

The brightly colored flowers are small but plentiful.

Cuphea is a low-maintenance annual that blooms from late spring until frost without needing deadheading. In frost-free zones, it can be grown as a perennial. While the flowers of this plant may be small, they more than make up for their size in quantity.

Because of its small size and dense habit, cuphea makes the perfect addition to mixed containers and garden plantings without diminishing the effects of other plants. Cuphea also attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Even though there are more than 250 species in the family, cuphea is still considered a relative newcomer in the world of ornamental horticulture. In the past few years, breeders have introduced new varieties that create larger, showier flowers on plants with the same excellent heat tolerance and longevity as before.

Cuphea Overview

Genus Name Cuphea
Common Name Cuphea
Plant Type Annual
Light Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Flower Color Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11, 8, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings

Where to Plant Cuphea

Cuphea loves hot, sunny days and well-drained soil. In locations where the conditions are particularly hot and dry, it appreciates a little afternoon shade. Annual cuphea is a fine addition to a garden bed or in mixed containers. In warm climates, cuphea can be grown as an evergreen shrub. It attracts hummingbirds, so it is a good addition to a pollinator garden. In cold areas, it can be moved inside for the winter and grown as a houseplant.

How and When to Plant Cuphea

In early spring, plant cuphea nursery plants outside in well-draining soil. Dig a hole twice the width of the container. Loosen the soil with a shovel and add compost before settling in the plant at the same depth it was in its container. Backfill the hole and firm the soil to avoid air pockets. Water well. Space multiple plants 10 to 18 inches apart depending on variety.

Cuphea Care Tips


Although some varieties may tolerate part shade, this annual likes full sun best. Full sun keeps cuphea (especially older varieties) from getting lanky and promotes the greatest number of blooms.

Soil and Water

While it prefers consistent moisture throughout the growing season, cuphea needs well-drained soil. A too-wet environment leads to root rot. Once this plant is established, it can tolerate drought.

Temperature and Humidity

Native to the Americas, cuphea thrives in the heat of summer and tolerates humidity and drought.


Fertilize cuphea regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer throughout the summer for the best, biggest, and most consistent display. For the amount to use, follow product label directions.


There's no need to deadhead these plants. Occasional pruning or pinching back in late spring encourages a flush of new growth and keeps the plant well maintained.

Potting and Repotting Cuphea

Because it is small and dense, cuphea makes an attractive houseplant as long as it receives enough sunlight, preferably from a south-facing window. The plant is a fast grower and may need pruning to keep it tidy indoors. Repot it every spring if it outgrows its pot, making sure the new pot has adequate drainage; the stems will rot if the plant sits in soggy soil.

Pests and Problems

In general, cuphea plants are pest-resistant. They are occasionally bothered by Japanese beetles, which can be captured in traps or drowned in soapy water, and by whiteflies and aphids, both of which can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

How to Propagate Cuphea

Most gardeners choose nursery plants when they add cuphea to their gardens, but gardeners who prefer to plant seeds can sow them outdoors in spring after the last frost or indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost. In either case, press them lightly into the soil or seed-starting mix and don't cover them. They require light for germination.

Cuphea can also be propagated with stem cuttings. In the spring or fall, cut 5 inches from a stem tip and remove any leaves from the bottom half of the cutting. Dip the bottom of the cutting in a rooting powder and insert it into a sterile soilless planting medium. Place a plastic bag over the pot with the cutting to increase the humidity, but remove it briefly every day or two to prevent condensation. Place the pot in a bright, warm location. When you see new leaves growing, move the seedling to a pot with nutrient-rich soil.

Types of Cuphea

Cuphea comes in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and flower sizes. Its small, often tubular blossoms wear shades of orange, bright yellow, red, white, purple, and neon pink in differing combos. Many of these flowers feature large modified petals that give the appearance of ears. Up close, the flowers can resemble mice or bats, hence its common names mouse flower and bat flower.

'David Verity' Cigar Flower

David Verity cigar flower Cuphea
Denny Schrock

Cuphea ignea 'David Verity' offers tube-shaped orange flowers all summer long on 36-inch-tall plants.

Candy Corn Plant

cuphea micropetala cigar plant
Denny Schrock

Cuphea micropetala (candy corn plant) is a Mexican species of cuphea that can grow 3 feet tall and wide with stems covered in yellow and orange flowers loved by hummingbirds. Zones 7-10

'Flamenco Samba' Cuphea

cuphea llavea bat face blooms
Denny Schrock

Cuphea llavea 'Flamenco Samba' has rich, burgundy flowers that exhibit exceptionally large and showy petals that bloom all season long. Zones 9-10

Mexican Heather

Mexican heather Cuphea hyssopifolia
Scott Little

Cuphea hyssopifolia bears lavender-pink flowers on 24-inch-tall plants.

'Tiny Mice' Mouse Flower

batface cuphea
Andrew Drake

Cuphea llavea 'Tiny Mice' bears crimson-red flowers on 18-inch-tall plants.

'Minnie Mouse' Cuphea

Cuphea Minnie Mouse flower
Lynn Karlin

Cuphea 'Minnie Mouse' offers orange-and-purple flowers on a plant that grows 36 inches tall.

'Vermillionaire' Cuphea

Vermillionaire Cuphea
Blaine Moats

Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' boasts hundreds of yellow-orange flowers that are borne continuously all season long for an amazing display of color. Zones 8-11

'Totally Tempted' Mouse Flower

Cuphea llavea Totally Tempted
Peter Krumhardt

Cuphea llavea 'Totally Tempted' bears large crimson-pink flowers on 12-inch-tall plants.

Cuphea Companion Plants


Crossandra Orange Marmalade
Kim Cornelison

Grow this underused and underappreciated tropical plant and you're sure to get lots of questions—and compliments! It's a great performer in hot, sunny spots. It produces clusters of frilly orange or yellow flowers all season and shiny, dark green leaves. When frost threatens, you can bring it indoors and grow it as a houseplant, too, where it will flower on and off all year if it gets enough light.


Lantana Luscious Citrus Blend
Justin Hancock

If you have a hot, baked spot, lantana is your answer. This hardworking plant not only thrives with little moisture and in full sun. Lantana is a flower that seems to have it all: It produces an abundance of brightly colored flowers all summer and fall, and it's a magnet for butterflies (hummingbirds like it, too). It's easy to grow and a great choice for containers. Plus, if you have a sunny spot indoors, you can grow it as a charming indoor plant. In frost-free climates (Zones 9-11), it's a great perennial groundcover, as well.

Mexican Sunflower

Mexican Sunflower Tithonia
Peter Krumhardt

Attract butterflies and have fun doing it with big, bold, beautiful Mexican sunflower. Plant it from seed directly in the ground and watch it soar. It can hit up to 5 feet in just weeks with big, lush foliage and smaller but still showy flowers in sunset colors that butterflies love. Put a cluster of these bodacious beauties in the back of the border to give it height and drama. Many of the taller types need staking to keep them upright. Plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How quickly do cuphea plants grow?

    Fast-growing cuphea plants reach their full height within weeks. As annuals, they die at first frost unless they are containerized and brought inside.

  • Do deer eat cuphea plants?

    Although the plants are not officially deer-resistant, it seems that deer prefer to eat other plants unless they have no other choice. Similarly, rabbits tend not to munch on cuphea when they have other options.

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