How to Grow Mexican Heather — Cuphea

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Mexican heather–Cuphea hyssopifolia–is a small bushy perennial that bears short racemes of light pink-purple, pink, or white flowers atop downy stems covered with narrowly lance-shaped mid to dark green leave to 1-inch long. Mexican heather is a good choice for containers or the front of beds and borders.

Cuphea hyssopifolia belongs to the Cuphea genus which includes about 250 annuals and short-lived perennials. All have tubular flowers either singly or in clusters; most have ovate to lance-shaped leave covered with sticky hairs. Another well-known Cuphea is Cuphea ignea also known as the cigar flower.

See also Cuphea ignea.

Cuphea hyssopifola commonly known as Mexican Heather or Elfin herb

Get to know Mexican Heather

  • Plant type: Evergreen perennial is sometimes grown as an annual
  • Growing Zones and range: Perennial in Zones 10-11; grown as an annual in other zones
  • Hardiness: Tender, the foliage will be burnt by frost
  • Height and width: Up to 24 inches (61cm) tall and wide
  • Flowers: Tubular flowers are pink, purple, white, orange, and red
  • Bloom time: Summer through fall
  • Uses: Shrubby perennial where hardy; use in beds, borders, and containers.
  • Common name: Mexican heather, elfin herb, Hawaiian heather
  • Botanical name: Cuphea hyssopifolia
  • Family: Lythraceae
  • Origin: North, Central and South America

Where to plant Mexican Heather

  • Plant Mexican heather in full sun in Zones 2-7; partial shade in Zones 8-11.
  • Mexican heather grows best in humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil. Do not let the soil dry out.
 Cuphea hyssopifolia, Mexican heather
Cuphea hyssopifolia, Mexican heather

When to plant Mexican Heather

  • Set Mexican heather seedlings in the garden after all danger of frost has passed in spring.

Planting and spacing Mexican Heather

  • Space Mexican heather 2 feet apart.

How to water and feed Mexican Heather

  • Keep the soil evenly moist when growing Mexican heather.
  • Fertilize Mexican heather every 4 weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer.
  • Mexican heather can be attacked by whiteflies, aphids, and powdery mildew.

Mexican Heather care

  • Pinch away growing tips at planting time to keep Mexican heather bushy.

Mexican Heather varieties to grow

  • C. hyssopifolis is evergreen.
  • C. ignea is called the cigar plant, firecracker plant. Slender stems.

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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