Cuphea is a low-maintenance annual that blooms from late spring until frost without needing deadheading. While the flowers of this plant may be small, they more than make up for size in quantity. Another bonus: Cuphea has become more available at garden centers in recent years, so finding it is not usually a problem.
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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. 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 attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators.
Related: Flowers That Attract Bees
Cuphea Care Must-Knows
Native to the Americas, cuphea thrives in the heat of summer. While it prefers consistent moisture throughout the growing season, it does need well-drained soil. Once this plant is established, it can tolerate drought and continue to impress with its large number of flowers. Fertilize cuphea regularly throughout the summer for the best, biggest, and most consistent display.
Related: Tips for Fertilizing Annuals
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. Occasional pruning will help encourage a flush of new growth, as well as keep the plant looking nicely maintained.
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. Ongoing research on the use of this plant for oilseed production seeks to lessen reliance on coconut and palm oils, which destroys tropical habitats. Additional research shows promising results for use of cuphea as a rotational crop; it appears that wheat and corn yields increase when those grains are grown after a year of raising cuphea.
More Varieties of Cuphea
'David Verity' cigar flower
Cuphea ignea 'David Verity' offers tube-shape orange flowers all summer long on 36-inch-tall plants.
Candy corn plant
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 'Flamenco Samba' has rich, burgundy flowers that exhibit exceptionally large and showy petals that bloom all season long. Zones 9-10
'Tiny Mice' mouse flower
Cuphea llavea 'Tiny Mice' bears crimson-red flowers on 18-inch-tall plants.
'Minnie Mouse' cuphea
Cuphea 'Minnie Mouse' offers orange-and-purple flowers on a plant that grows 36 inches tall.
Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' boasts hundreds of yellow-orange flowers are borne continuously all season long for an amazing display of color. Zones 8-11
Cuphea Companion Plants
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.
If you have a hot, baked spot, lantana is your answer. This hardworking plant not only thrives with little moisture and in full, unyielding sun, it does so with ease. In fact, 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.
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.