How to Grow and Care for Cuphea Plants Like a Pro Gardener

Common Name  Cigar plants, Firecracker plants
Botanical Name  Cuphea spp.
Family  Lythraceae
Plant Type  Annual, perennial
Mature Size  Up to 6 ft. tall
Sun Exposure  Full, partial
Soil Type  Well-drained
Soil pH  Acid, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time  Summer, fall
Flower Color  Orange, red, yellow, purple
Hardiness Zones 8 – 11 (USDA)
Native Area  North, Central, and South America

Cuphea Plant Care

While guidance varies depending on the species, here are common cuphea plant care requirements: 

  • Position in full sun or partial shade when the afternoon sun is intense.
  • Plant in well-drained, fertile soil.
  • Drought-tolerant, but prefers regular, light watering.
  • Fertilize at the start of the growing season with a slow-release formula.

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Most cuphea plants prefer a full sun position, but some species tolerate part shade or prefer it when the afternoon sun is scorching. If the stems become leggy and weak or the plants aren’t flowering well, they could need more light. 


Cuphea plants prefer fertile, light, well-drained soil. While fertilizers aren’t necessary, amending poor soils with organic matter can help produce abundant blooms. If your yard has heavy clay soil, plant cuphea in raised beds or containers for improved drainage and aeration. The short roots of these plants find it difficult to penetrate heavy soils and access the water and nutrients they need.


Most cuphea plants are moderately drought-tolerant once established. However, these shallow-rooted species typically produce the most vigorous growth and abundant blooms when the soil remains evenly moist during the growing season. Using a drip irrigation system during dry periods is an effective way to provide moisture, as this prevents the risk of root rot from overly soggy soils.

Temperature and Humidity

Cuphea plants are heat lovers, typically growing well in daytime temperatures from around 23°F to 30°F, although this varies depending on the species. They can handle some humidity but prefer drier conditions. Too much humidity can lead to fungal issues and attract fungus gnats

Most cuphea plants are frost-tender and will die off when the frosts arrive. If temperatures temporarily drop below 10°F but not to freezing, protecting the shallow roots with mulching and locating in a sheltered site can help increase survival rates, keeping shrubby species evergreen.


Cuphea plants don’t typically need fertilizing to do well. Planting them in humus soil rich in organic matter, such as compost, is often enough. However, applying a slow-release fertilizer at the start of the growing season can provide a growth and bloom boost. 

Types of Cuphea Plants

There are over 250 cuphea species and many more cultivars and hybrids. Do your research to select one best suited to your climate and growing conditions. Below are a few of the popular varieties. 

  • Candy corn plant (Cuphea micropetala): Small, semi-woody evergreen shrub with yellow to orange tubular flowers. Reaches up to three feet in height and grows in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11.
  • Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia): A compact evergreen shrub that stands out for the purple or white flowers. Reaches up to two feet tall and grows in USDA zones 9 to 11.
  • Cigar plant (Cuphea ignea): This tender, low-growing perennial does best in USDA zones 10 to 12, and the burgundy blooms put on a show from late spring to fall. 
  • Vermillionaire® Large Firecracker Plant: This popular cuphea hybrid has show-stopping, long blooming tubular orange to red blooms. It can grow in USDA zones 8 to 11 and reaches up to two-and-a-half feet tall.


You can boost the growth and tidy the appearance of straggly cuphea plants with pruning. Pinching the stem tips during the growing season can help to keep them from looking overly leggy and cutting perennial plants back to the ground in late winter or early spring stimulates fresh growth next season.

Propagating Cuphea Plants

Cuphea species are often annuals or short-lived, tender perennials. Consider propagating cuphea from tip cuttings to create more plants for the next year. Follow the steps below in spring or fall for a chance at success:

  1. Take a three-inch tip cutting from a healthy, non-flowering softwood stem using sterile pruning shears or scissors.
  2. Put the base of the cutting into a well-draining, evenly moist potting mix in a small pot.
  3. Place the cutting in a warm spot with bright but indirect light.
  4. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy while waiting for the cutting to take root. 
  5. Transplant the cutting to its permanent location once new leaves form and the danger of frost passes.

How to Grow Cuphea Plants From Seed

It’s possible to grow cuphea plants from seed, although self-harvesting the seeds can be tricky because of the sticky hairs and susceptibility to seed pod shattering.

  1. Seeds should be sufficiently dry before sowing.
  2. Ensure the ground is free from weeds to encourage seedling growth.
  3. Sow in late April or early May to maximize seed yield
  4. Space rows 15 to 25 inches apart and sow shallowly, no deeper than half an inch into the soil.
  5. Keep the soil evenly moist until the new plants are established.


Growing cuphea plants in containers means you can overwinter them indoors if you live in a region with cold winters. Select a sunny spot in your home and cut back watering, allowing the soil to dry before irrigating during this dormant period.

How to Get Cuphea to Bloom

Learn how to make the most of the long-bloom season of cuphea plants.

Bloom Months

Bloom months vary by species and regional climates, but cuphea plants are well-known for their long flowering season. Many bloom continuously from the warm days of late spring to fall, when the first frosts appear.

What Do Cuphea Plant Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Cuphea flowers are most commonly orange or red, but they can also be yellow, white, or purple. They frequently have a tubular form, making them popular plants for long-beaked hummingbirds. Some species have a light, pleasant fragrance, while others are unscented.

How to Encourage More Blooms

To help your cuphea plants produce bountiful blooms, ensure they receive plenty of sun and protection from temperature dips.

While these plants are drought-tolerant, water stress results in poor flowering, so keeping the soil evenly moist but not soggy is also helpful.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Cuphea are known for being relatively pest-, disease-, and deer-resistant flowering plants. Their pest resistance could partly be attributed to the sticky hairs many of the species have, which may act as a deterrent to insects.

Non-sticky varieties may be more attractive to pests such as aphids, thrips and whiteflies. Being vigilant and promptly removing insects and applying insecticidal soaps or organic treatments, such as neem oil, can help control pest populations.

Some cuphea species can be prone to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, a fungus that can lead to white mold. It’s possible to reduce the risk of plants developing this pathogen by providing good air circulation through appropriate spacing and avoiding overwatering.


  • Cuphea plants can be annuals that only last one year or tender perennials or evergreen shrubs that return each year if the temperatures are warm enough year-round or you overwinter them indoors. Research the individual species to determine which is right for your yard and climate.

  • One of the benefits of low-maintenance cuphea plants is that they are self-cleaning. This means you don’t have to deadhead the flowers after they finish blooming. 

  • The nectar-rich, tubular flowers of cuphea plants are pollinator magnets. Butterflies, butterfly moths, bees, and hummingbirds all benefit from the long and abundant bloom season of these species, making them an ideal addition when creating a pollinator garden.

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