The Fascinating World of Bat-Faced Cuphea

Grown as an annual in many parts of the country, the unique and intriguing bat-faced cuphea is both evergreen and root hardy. This fascinating shrub belongs to a family of around 115 species, some of which have equally interesting names such as the cigar plant. While the open-pollinated form of the plant boasts deep purple, white, and red flowers, newer cultivars offer a variety of colors. Bees, butterflies, and birds may not be fans of the flying mammals, but they are indeed drawn to the nectar of this eponymous plant. Native to Mexico and Central America, the bat-faced cuphea begins generating clusters of numerous flowers in late spring and continues to bloom until frost.

Propagation: From Seed or Cuttings

To propagate the bat-faced cuphea, you have two options: seeds or stem cuttings. You can sow cuphea seeds directly in the garden once the danger of frost has passed, or you can start them indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last spring frost date. Scatter the seeds on top of the soil and lightly coat them with milled peat, ensuring they receive adequate light for germination.

If you choose to use cuttings, select four- to six-inch stems from a healthy plant, making sure they are well-developed but not old and woody. Fill small pots with an all-purpose soil mix and create a hole for the cutting using a pencil. Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone and place it in the hole. Cover the pot with a plastic dome or clear plastic bag to create a mini terrarium, and keep it in bright, indirect light.

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Transplanting nursery starts is another viable option if you can find live plants. Simply place the root ball into a hole of the same size as the container from which you are transplanting.

Cultivation: How to Grow the Bat-Faced Cuphea

The bat-faced cuphea thrives in rich organic soil that is well-draining. While it can be grown in full sun in many regions, it requires some shade in hotter zones, like Central Texas and the Arizona desert. This plant is heat- and drought-tolerant, though it benefits from regular watering. However, take care not to overwater, especially in heavy clay soils, as it is prone to root rot.

For optimal growth, feed the bat-faced cuphea with a slow-release fertilizer in spring or apply an all-purpose fertilizer monthly throughout the growing season.

Growing Tips for Success

To achieve the best results with the bat-faced cuphea, follow these tips:

  • Use organic soil.
  • Provide full sun or partial shade, depending on your location.
  • Water regularly.
  • Apply an all-purpose fertilizer.

Pruning and Maintenance

The bat-faced cuphea requires minimal maintenance. Light tip pruning or pinching may be necessary if the plants become leggy. Additionally, a late-winter shape-up can help maintain an attractive form. Deadheading is not necessary for this plant.

Pests and Diseases

Thankfully, the bat-faced cuphea is not prone to any significant insect or disease problems. It is also deer-resistant, making it a hassle-free plant to cultivate.

Best Uses for the Bat-Faced Cuphea

This fascinating plant can be enjoyed in various ways. It makes a lovely container plant, especially when overwintered indoors. Many gardeners find joy in hanging baskets or even using it as a year-round houseplant. Remember to keep the soil moist in containers and ensure the plant receives at least four hours of bright sunlight each day. The bat-faced cuphea is also suitable for borders, beds, or path edging, and it truly shines when planted in masses.

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Watch this video to learn more about the mesmerizing bat-faced cuphea:

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For a wide selection of bat-faced cuphea and other fascinating plants, visit Ames Farm Center.