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How to Grow Cigar Plant — Cuphea ignea

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Cigar plant, Cuphea ignea, is a shrubby perennial that bears showy blooms that look like firecrackers or lit cigars. The plant is commonly grown indoors but can be grown outdoors in mild winter regions or planted as a summer annual.

Cuphea ignea’s flowers are tuber to about 3/4 inch long; they are red with a white tip and dark ring at the end (hence the name “cigar plant”). Blooms appear in summer and fall.

Cigar plant is relatively easy to grow; it wants average room temperature and bright light. It will bloom generously if given plenty of light. Keep the soil just moist and feed the plants every two to four weeks.

Cuphea ignea, also known as cigar plant, cigar flower, firecracker plant, or Mexican cigar.

Get to know Cuphea ignea

  • Plant type: Sometimes evergreen perennial is often grown as an annual
  • Growing Zones and range: 10-11; elsewhere grown as an annual or houseplant
  • Hardiness: Tender; indoors grow at average room temperature; cooler in winter
  • Height and width: Up to 2 feet (61cm) tall and wide
  • Foliage: Slender stems and oblong to lance-shaped leaves that are 1 to 3 inches long
  • Flowers: Tubular flowers look like firecrackers to 1-inch long
  • Flower colors: Red is the most common color; some varieties have lavender, lilac, pink, or purple flowers
  • Bloom time: Summer through fall
  • Uses: Hanging basket plant, edging plant in the garden
  • Common name: Cigar plant, firecracker flower
  • Botanical name: Cuphea ignea
  • Family: Lythraceae
  • Origin: Mexico

Where to plant Cuphea ignea

  • Light outdoors: Grow cigar plant outdoors in bright light; avoid direct sun in hot regions.
  • Light indoors: Grow cigar plant in bright light indoors.
  • Soil outdoors: Outdoors plant in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Soil indoors: Grow cigar plant in all-purpose mix in a pot with plenty of drainage holes.

Cuphea ignea uses

  • Cuphea ignea makes a colorful display when massed toward the front of a border.
  • Grow it in containers mixed with silvery foliage of dusty mill or variegated vinca.
  • Cuttings can be rooted and used in indoor window gardens.
Cuphea ignea, cigar plant also called firecracker
Cuphea ignea, cigar plant also called firecracker

When to plant Cuphea ignea

  • Set outdoors after all danger of frost has passed in spring.
  • Sow seed after all danger of frost has passed.

Planting and spacing Cuphea ignea

  • Space plants 12 to 24 inches apart (30-60cm)

How to water and feed Cuphea ignea

  • Keep the soil just moist; allow the soil surface to dry between waterings. Mist regularly.
  • Fertilize twice a month in spring and fall, while the plant is actively growing. Water less and hold back fertilizer during the winter to give the plant a rest period.
The delicate flower of the Cuphea ignea
The delicate flower of the Cuphea ignea

Cuphea ignea care

  • If an older plant looks scraggly, take cuttings to start new plants and throw away the old one.
  • Mealybugs can attack cigar plants; spray away these cottony, white masses with a strong stream of water or spray with insecticidal soap.

Growing Cuphea ignea as a houseplant

  • Set Cupha ignea where temperature and humidity are average and light is direct.
  • Keep the growing medium evenly moist, and fertilize every two weeks.

Cuphea ignea pests and diseases

  • Cigar plant is susceptible to scale insect, botrytis blight, leaf spot, and root rot.

Cuphea ignea propagation

  • Take stem or tip cuttings in fall.
  • Sow seed in late spring where you want the plant to grow.
  • Seeds germinate in 7 to 14 days at 68°F (20°C). Flowers appear about 4 to 5 months after sowing.
  • Divide or root softwood cuttings in late spring.

Other Cuphea varieties to grow

  • Cuphea hyssopifolia is known as Mexican heather; flowers are pink or red; it can be grown in containers or beds and borders

Also of Interest:

How to Grow Cuphea — Mexican Heather

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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