Dictionary of Flowers: Cuphea (Cigar Plant, Tiny Mice, Bat Face)

Cuphea (Cigar Plant, Tiny Mice, Bat Face). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Far Out Flora and Flickr
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Cuphea (Cigar Plant, Tiny Mice, Bat Face). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Far Out Flora and Flickr

  • Cuphea
  • Common name: cigar plant, tiny mice, bat face
  • Family: Lythraceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 8-10, annual elsewhere
  • Height: 8" and up depending on species
  • Width: 6"
  • Sun/part shade
  • Blooms: spring to fall
  • Attracts: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds
  • Growth habit: mounding, round. Used as a filler in containers
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, free draining. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, hanging basket, mixed border, tropical garden
  • Diseases: disease free
  • Pests: generally disease free

Cuphea is a large genus of flowering tender perennials native to Mexico.

There is a large number of species, several of which have become popular as garden plants because of their long blooming period.

Although perennial in frost free zones, cuphea is treated as an annual in most gardening zones. 

It produces red, pink, yellow or bi-colored red and purple small flowers, cigar shaped in most varieties. The foliage is dark green, smooth and dense. 

Cuphea's flowers attract hummingbirds to the garden.

Cuphea grows best in full sun to part sun conditions. It tolerates heat and it is somewhat drought tolerant when established, but does better when additional water is provided during dry periods in summer.

Average to fertile soil with good drainage. In containers, it requires regular watering; don't allow the soil to dry completely.

Cuphea doesn't need deadheading. A slow release granular fertilizer keeps cuphea blooming all summer. 

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Cigar plant is available as starter plants in nurseries in spring and summer. It can also be grown from seed. Cuphea seeds need to be planted on starter mix, kept at about 70F.

Do not cover the seed, as it needs light to germinate. Sprouts emerge in seven to ten days. Plant seed indoors about eight weeks before last frost date.

Pinch the tips when plants have a few sets of true leaves for better branching. Harden off and wait to plant in their permanent position outside until all danger of frost has passed.

Cuphea prefers warm temperatures, and it will bloom in about three months from the time the seed is planted. 

It can also be grown from softwood cuttings, by taking short (4 to 6 inches) cuttings.

Dip the end of the cuttings in rooting hormone, after removing the leaves from the bottom half and plant in moist potting soil.

Keep moist and in the shade until roots form. Once rooted, harden off to full sun. 

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Cuphea is resistant to disease and pests.

Popular varieties:

  • Cuphea llavea (bat face plant) - purple and red flowers resemble bat faces. Reaches up to 24 inches, most cultivars are shorter. Very heat tolerant. Cultivars include 'Flamenco series', 'Totally Tempted' 
  • Cuphea ignea (cigar plant) - red and yellow tubular flowers. Varieties of this species include 'Matchmaker' series
  • Cuphea cyanea (pink cigar plant) - orange and yellow tubular blooms. Look for varieties such as 'Pink Mouse'
  • Cuphea hyssopiflia (false Mexican heather) - small plant, about twelve inches tall. Insignificant pink flowers. Tolerant of dry weather and drought. Varieties: 'Alba' with white flowers, 'Lavender Lace', lavender pink flowers

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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