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Cupheas - The Hardy Kind

6/27/2023 1:13 pm




Cupheas - The Hardy Kind


Looking for a perennial plant that provides pops of color in your garden and is irresistible to hummingbirds and bees? Try the perennial forms of Cuphea. If you can give them at least a half day of sun, these are top notch at attracting pollinators and delighting humans.


Several years ago, horticulturist Jason Reeves trialed Cuphea x 'Vermillionaire' at the University of Tennessee. He deemed it a winner as a pollinator and a visitor favorite. Fine Gardening. Hardy in Zone 8 and higher, it is drought tolerant and a magnet for hummingbirds and bees. Vermillionaire features tubular, fiery orange-red blooms with highlights of white and yellow produced up and down the stems. In the last couple of years, it has begun to be easier to find at nurseries. Hardly a day has passed in June where I have not seen a hummingbird come to C. x Vermillionaire!


Cuphea x Vermillionaire



I've also grown Cuphea cyanea for seven years. (This plant matches up with what Plant Delights calls Cuphea cyanea 'Ashevilla'.) With delightful pink tubular blooms tipped in light yellow with two black dots that give the appearance of eyes, this is a demure 18" tall x 1 ft wide hummingbird and bee delight. It's been the hardiest of the Cupheas for me and a personal favorite.  That said, it gets less hummer action than Vermillionaire.


Cuphea cyanea



I cannot as yet give a ringing endorsement to the Large Cigar Plant (Cuphea micropetala), having killed two of them. That said, it draws similar pollinators and is eye-catching enough to grow as an annual. It needs full sun to thrive and grows to 3-4 feet, making it for good pollinator watching from a distance.



Cuphea micropetala



Cuphea 'Kristen's Delight' is a delightful pinkish lavender form. My five year old plant succumbed to 2023's polar plunge, but luckily I found a replacement at the 2023 UGA Trial Garden Plant Sale in April, where most of my Cupheas have been purchased. It's got a charming little frill at the end and its coloring is unique.  




Cuphea 'Kristen's Delight'


Lastly, if I had young children, I definitely would grow Cuphea llavea 'Batface' in a container. The flowers do indeed look like little bats, but the effect is lost at any distance. Raise it up off the ground and keep it physically close, it is irresistible. It overwintered in the ground for me for quite a few years, but I admit I yanked it because I had not planted it where it had impact and I had no small ones to amuse with it. No wonder the bat looked so churlish!



Cuphea llavea 'Batface"




Contributed by Liane Schleifer