An abundance of colorful, tubular blossoms filled with nectar attract hummingbirds and butterflies to Cuphea flowers, which can be grown as perennials or annuals depending on where you live. Some have a cylindrical firecracker or cigar-like look without a corolla. Others appear to have bat or mouse "faces" at the opening of their blossoms due to petal-like corollas that give the appearance of ears.
Cuphea flower colors include gold, lavender, orange, pink, purple, red, white and purples so dark that you might as well call them black. The genus' green, ovate or lance-shaped foliage is veined and ranges from slickly smooth to hairy and sticky.
About 250 species of the genus are found in the wild. However, only a small number are cultivated commercially, and many of these are hybrids. Flowers by the Sea has assembled a collection of what we think are the best ornamental Cupheas to aid gardeners. All are attractive choices for planting as perennials in USDA zones with mild winters or as annuals in areas with chilly winters. Some, such as Cuphea x 'David Verity', have become famous for being among the best plants for attracting hummingbirds.
Cupheas are native to Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Horticultural Cupheas range from sprawling, low-growing groundcovers to shrubs up to 6 feet tall. However, most are petite to mid-height.
Many Cupheas are also attractive because they grow rapidly and are easy to cultivate -- traits that are particularly helpful when growing them as annuals.
Cupheas flourish with average watering based on local conditions. It's necessary to water regularly in regions where little rainfall is available. Although known as sun-loving plants, many appreciate a bit of shade where summers are hot and dry. Good drainage is a must for these plants. They also benefit from winter mulching and amendment with compost.
Irish physician and botanist Patrick Browne (1720-1790) was the first naturalist to collect Cuphea specimens. He found them in Jamaica and described them in his 1756 book Civil and Natural History of Jamaica. However, Cupheas didn't become popular commercially until recent decades.
Floriferous and heat tolerant, Cuphea 'Strybing Sunset' is a long-blooming addition to wildlife gardens. Similar to Salvias, Cupheas are rich sources of nectar that fuel hummingbird migration. Bees, butterflies and hoverflies are among the other pollinators that love this genus.
(Mexican Loosestrife) The tempting, purple-to-magenta flowers of Cuphea aff. aequipetala attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds as well as gardeners who love color. Abundant blossoms flare into six-petal corollas at the end of long, cylindrical flowers.
(Blackberry Sparkler Cuphea) Who wouldn’t expect the offspring of Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ignea) to be hot orange? But Cuphea ‘Blackberry Sparkler’ has creamy white flowers with a subtle multicolor blush of pastels and blackberry-purple tips.
(Hummingbird’s Lunch Cuphea) The long blooming, tube-like flowers of Cuphea ‘Hummingbird’s Lunch’ are an intense vermillion red shifting into deep yellow. This is one of the hottest looking cultivars of Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ignea) we’ve seen.
(Firecracker Plant) Hot orange, tubular flowers bloom nonstop during the growing season on our variety of Firecracker Plant, which is identical to the plant sold as Vermillionaire® by Proven Winners®. This is an outstanding clone of Cuphea ignea. Hummingbirds adore it.
(Candy Corn Plant) Due to their bright colors and rich nectar, Cupheas are magnets for pollinators, including butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. That's certainly true for the orange and yellow, candy-corn colored flowers of Cuphea micropetala.
(Nelson's Bat-Faced Cuphea) A tiny snout-like face emerges at the end of this Cuphea's tubular flower and beneath two red-orange petals shaped like bat ears. "Too cute!" is a typical response to these whimsical flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
(Salvador Cuphea) Closely related to but distinct from Cuphea oreophylla, this rare species has small flowers in great profusion. A spreading shrubby grower, it excells in containers where it can be enjoyed close up.
Floriferous and heat tolerant, Cuphea schumannii is also a long-blooming addition to wildlife gardens. Similar to Salvias, Cupheas are rich sources of nectar that fuel hummingbird migration. Bees, butterflies and hoverflies are among the other pollinators that love this genus.
(David Verity Cigar Plant) Cuphea flowers are hummingbird magnets, especially the orange-red blooms of the David Verity hybrid. The blossoms have been likened to cigars due to their tubular shape and hot coloring that ends with a slightly flared and fringed yellow opening instead of petals.
(Kristen's Delightful Cigar Plant) Hummingbirds and butterflies love Cupheas. Kristen's Delightful Cigar Plant is a spectacularly colorful hybrid that is also a magnet for gardeners who love the pastels and abundance of its bicolor flowers.