How to Grow Cigar Plants

How to Grow Cigar Plants

I happened to run into this little shrub at a local gardener society show a few years ago. I was amazed at the little orange flowers covering this thing.

At the time, I knew nothing about this little beauty but it was one of those plants so striking to me that I set out to get one.

I quickly taught myself how to grow cigar plants through experimentation, trial and error and sheer luck.

I still have yet to see one in a chain store, which is usually a hit and miss on inventory, but have not studied the reasoning. I managed to find ONE at a local nursery because apparently they are very popular but I do not see them around in any yard I pass while driving around my area. Go figure.

What is a Cigar Plant ?

A cigar plant is a small multi-stemmed perennial shrub similiar to Spirea (Bridal Wreath). Related to Mexican Heather if you’re familiar with that.

The stems are long and flexible, with dozens of orange, yellow and white tubular shaped flowers blooming along the stem. It has many names but the one that is most relatable to me is “Candy Corn Plant”. It also goes by the name of Firecracker Plant or simply its Latin name “Cuphea” (pronounced Ku-fee UH).

How Big Will It Get?

It grows to between 3 and 4 feet tall and about 3 feet wide.

Light Conditions

I have grown it in full sun, full shade, part shade all successfully. It will flower more in full sun of course but will grow a nice dark green in shade.

Annual or Perennial?

Further up the country it is grown as an annual, but in coastal Alabama which is now considered 9a Hardiness Zone, depending on which map you look at, it is usually a perennial if overwintered effectively depending on our crazy weather of course.

how to grow cigar plants
Image from Fahr Greenhouse

Care and Pruning

When you first plant, keep the soil damp for a while until you start seeing new growth. They seem to do best in damp soil but can survive for a few days without wilting depending on the time of year or amount of rain we’re getting.

Use a slow release fertilizer in early Spring for a good start.

Throughout the growing season, feel free to pinch the ends for a fuller, shorter plant. You can also tidy it up throughout the growing season any way you see fit once its established.

Even pruning them in the heat of summer does no harm as long as you don’t take off more than 6 to 8 inches to keep its rounded shape.

If it gets cold enough for the Cuphea to go dormant and lose its leaves, I usually just cut it back to the ground in February or so and by midsummer, it will grow back to around 3 foot tall and about as wide.

It is extremely hard to judge weather these days, so I will overwinter the cut back shrub by piling mulch over it if expecting a hard freeze. This is no guarantee of its survival so I usually keep some rooted cuttings in a pot for next season.


We will see how this season goes because I have lots of rooted cuttings I will have to take care of through the winter.

Pests

In my area, I have not had a pest attack yet nor any type of disease affect them. I have read they may get Powdery Mildew in damp shaded areas

Soil Types

The majority of my cigar plants are doing well in sandy soil with a PH about 6.
It seems to be doing well in poor soil types ranging from sandy, to topsoil, to a very rocky area I dug up that used to be part of my driveway. Also in a clay and sand 50/50 mixture near the foundation of my home.

Pollinators Love It

One thing I love most about this plant is its profuse and long blooming season. It starts early Spring by April and mine are still blooming in January ! They help the late season Fall pollinators immensely to survive through to winter.

Cigar Plants are constantly covered with butterflies and a large variety of small winged pollinators I have yet to discover the names of.

When the hummingbirds visit, they will actually bypass the feeder and head straight for my Cigar Plant! The flowers are so tiny , I don’t see how they can provide any sustenance, but the hummingbirds are constantly fighting over who rules the roost with this plant.

Cigar Plants are constantly covered with butterflies and a large variety of small winged pollinators I have yet to discover the names of.
When the hummingbirds visit, they will actually bypass the feeder and head straight for my Cigar Plant! The flowers are so tiny , I don’t see how they can provide any sustenance, but the hummingbirds are constantly fighting over who rules the roost with this plant.

Propagation

As with most plants I get, I wanted more of them. As we all know, most plants look so much more striking when planted in groups. Propagation seems to be relatively easily done with cuttings from new growth, with or without growth hormone. Just keep them moist constantly!

I have learned to propagate Cigar Plants (Cuphea micropetala) quite effectively, and you can read about how to do it HERE. I also have a very amateur video of how to grow Cigar Plants from cuttings HERE.

You really should try out this easy to care for, beautiful little plant! It’s uses in the garden can fill almost any role. If you have an area of poor soil that needs filling, give it a try.


Once I find a plant that does well in my area, I tend to go overboard with plantings so hopefully this year my yard will be full of them grown from my cuttings. Wish me luck!

how to grow cigar plants

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Cassie

    I too am a very proud owner of my firecracker Fern as we call it in the St.Tammany Parish of Louisiana, I have found two more offsprings of this plant same flower, different leaves and I cannot for the life of me find the names out of these beauties. I own one of the other the other one had to be left behind as it was more of a ground coverage at my old house I sold. I wish I could send you a picture of the other plants maybe you could help me with it?

    1. ErickDStyron

      Send it on, i may be of help

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