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Zones 16-24, H1, H2
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Annuals, Evergreen, Perennials, Shrubs, Flowers

These natives of Mexico and Central America provide color throughout the warm months. Use them in small beds, as a formal edging for borders, along paths, or in containers. Reliably perennial only in frost-free areas, though they may survive light frosts in Zones 16, 17, 21–23. C. hyssopifolia and C. ignea have both naturalized on Hawaii (the Big Island).

Pinch tips of shoots for compact growth; severely cut back older plants in late fall or early spring. Easy to grow from cuttings.

Cuphea ignea ‘Starfire’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Cuphea ignea ‘Starfire’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Cuphea ignea

Leafy, compact plant to 1 ft. or taller, as wide as tall. Narrow dark green leaves, 1–1 1/2 in. long. The appearance of the flowers explains the “cigar” of the common name: they’re tubular, 3/4 in. long, bright orange-red with a white tip and dark ring at the end. ‘David Verity’ has orange-red blooms. ‘Starfire’ has a pink flower tube and purple petals.

Cuphea llavea (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
Cuphea llavea (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)

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Cuphea llavea

Grows to 2–3 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Leaves to 3 in. long. red-and-purple, 1 1/2-in.-long flowers are said to look like a bat’s face. Occasionally spreads by seed in gardens. Though cultivated in the desert, it is not drought-tolerant—in nature, it grows along stream banks in Mexico. Compact varieties (12–16 in. high, 18 in. wide) include ‘Flamenco Rumba’, coral red flowers; ‘Flamenco Tango’, vibrant pink blooms; and ‘Totally Tempted’, bright red blooms.

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