The cigar plant, Cuphea ignea [KYOO-fee-uh IG-nee-uh] is a low-growing tender perennial shrub native to Mexico and parts of the West Indies.
It belongs to the Lythraceae family, which includes over 600 species of shrubs and herbs.
The slender, tube-shaped flowers of the cuphea ignea are responsible for the common name of the plant. Most people call it the cigar plant.
Other common names include:
- Cigar flower
- Firecracker plant
- Mexican cigar plant
The plant name is derived from the unique tubular flowers. The name “ignea” is Latin for “fire.”
This hardy plant is suited for growing indoors or outdoors around a patio, where it can spread out with its short foliage.
Before choosing a spot for it, review the following plant care tips for Cuphea ignea.
Caring For The Cigar Plant Cuphea
Size and Growth
The low-growing plant produces reddish stems that sprout waxy, dark green leaves.
It rarely reaches over 15″ inches and can spread several feet if allowed to grow in a garden bed.
To create a fuller appearance in a planter or window box, group several plants in the same container.
The cigar cuphea looks similar to Manettia (candy corn plant).
Firecracker Plant Flowering and Fragrance
The plant flowers between May and September. As mentioned, the cigar plant produces tube-shaped flowers resembling little cigars.
The flowers are thin and red with a black ring at the end. The ring is tipped with white, creating the appearance of a cigar tipped with a little bit of ash.
The flowers don’t have a scent.
Light and Temperature
Place the cigar plant in an area where it can get lots of sunlight throughout the day.
Full sun to partial shade is recommended.
It enjoys the light but doesn’t need hot temperatures. It is suited for growth outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12.
In warmer regions, it grows outdoors as an annual. In cooler regions, grow Cuphea in a container, moving the plant indoors for the winter.
Watering and Feeding
During the summer months, water the plant regularly and feed with a liquid fertilizer every two or three weeks.
In the winter, stop fertilizing and water sparingly.
In the winter, temperatures tend to get dryer and this tropical plant prefers moisture and humidity.
If grown indoors, mist the foliage lightly each day to help maintain humidity.
Soil and Transplanting
The plant grows well in porous soil with excellent drainage. Adding a little sand to the regular potting mix can help make it more porous.
Placing pebbles in the bottom of the pot also helps with drainage.
Transplanting is not required unless the plant starts to outgrow its current pot or planter.
When repotting the plant, wait for March or April. Remember to use soil with good drainage.
Maintenance and Grooming
Grooming the cigar plant is not a requirement, but helps manage growth. To retain the plant’s size, trim it back after blooming they and start to wither.
How to Propagate Cuphea Ignea
Seeds and cuttings are the two options for propagating the cuphea ignea. Sow the seeds in early spring to grow plants that are ready to flower in the summer.
Take cuttings in the early spring when transplanting plants brought indoors for the winter.
Always look for new shoots to get healthy cuttings.
Dip the cuttings in rooting powder or root hormone. Place the cuttings in porous soil and keep it moist. Keep the newly planted cuttings at 72-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the best results, place several cuttings in the same small pot. After they root and start to grow, move them to their own pots.
Cuphea Pests or Diseases
The cuphea ignea is not an invasive species or known to contain toxins.
While it’s safe to grow indoors, there are a couple of potential threats.
Aphids and Thrips may attack the leaves of the plant. Use an insecticide like neem oil to get rid of these critters.
The plant is easy to care for, but it may develop brown patches near the edges of the leaves.
This is a sign that the plant has not received enough light and is most common after winter.
If the leaves are brown, trim some of them back and place the plant in a spot with stronger light, but avoid using fertilizer until early spring.
Uses For The Cigar Cuphea Plant
The low-growing cigar plant looks great in a garden bed where it can provide ground cover as an annual. The foliage rarely reaches above 15″ inches.
Other options include placing the plant in a long planter or window box where it attracts hummingbirds.
It grows well in the sun and can tolerate moderate temperatures, making it suitable for growth outdoors or indoors.