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How to Grow and Care for Monkey Flower — Mimulus

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Mimulus–commonly called monkey flower–is a spreading perennial commonly grown as an annual. Mimulus produce dragon-like two-lipped flowers that cover the plant from summer to early fall. Flowers bloom in shades of red, pink, yellow, and orange. Flowers are often spotted with contrasting colors.

The Mimulus genus includes about 150 species of annuals, perennials, and shrubs. They are native to damp regions in the Americas as well as Africa, Asia, and Australia. Monkey flowers thrive in boggy soil.

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Mimulus can spread with a mass of small, toothed, green downy leaves. Use monkey flowers in shady borders or plant in hanging baskets or window boxes.

Mimulus attract hummingbirds.

Yellow monkey flower, Mimulus luteus
Yellow monkey flower, Mimulus luteus

Get to know Mimulus

  • Plant type: Perennial grown as an annual
  • Growing Zones and range: annual in Zones 2-11; grow as a perennial in Zones 9-11.
  • Hardiness: Tender; plants are killed by frost
  • Height and width: 8 to 12 inches (20-30cm) tall and wide or slightly more
  • Foliage: Pale to dark green entire or toothed succulent leaves are linear to nearly rounded
  • Flowers: Lipped flowers; flowers are 2 inches (5cm) or slightly more across
  • Flower colors: Shades of yellow, rose, red, orange, and bicolor and spotted
  • Bloom time: Spring to the first frost
  • Uses: Beds, borders, bog gardens, baskets, and containers; monkey flowers attract hummingbirds
  • Common name: Monkey Flower
  • Botanical name: Mimulus hybrids
  • Family: Scrophulariaceae
  • Origin: Southern Africa Asia, Australia, Central and South America

Where to plant Mimulus

  • Plant Mimulus in full sun in Zones 2 to 5; in warm summer regions plant Mimulus in part to full shade.
  • Grow Mimulus in humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Mimulus grow best in areas with cool, wet summers.

Mimulus uses

  • Mimulus will add a warm, bright color at the front of a shady border.
  • Mimulus will fill out a hanging basket or container quickly.
Monkey flowers will attract hummingbirds

When to plant Mimulus

  • Set established flowers in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Sow seeds indoors 14 to 15 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Sow seed outdoors in spring after the last frost.

Planting and spacing Mimulus

  • Sow seeds by simply pressing the seeds into the soil surface.
  • When starting seeds indoors, press them into the soil in six-packs or small pots then place the containers in the refrigerator for 3 weeks; this will speed germination. After removing containers from the refrigeration, set them in a warm spot at about 70°F/21°C for germinating.
  • Space monkey flowers 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.

How to water and feed Mimulus

  • Mimulus need ample water; keep the soil evenly moist. Do not let the Mimulus go dry. Water regularly, especially in hot weather.
  • Fertilize Mimulus every 2 to 4 weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer or work a slow-release fertilizer in the soil at planting time.
Yellow monkey flower, Mimulus luteus
Yellow monkey flower, Mimulus luteus

Mimulus care

  • Mulch around Mimulus to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Remove the first blooms to promote further blooming.
  • Dry weather can stop flowering; water plants generously to restore blooms.

Mimulus pests and diseases

  • Mimulus are susceptible to attack by aphids and whiteflies.

Mimulus propagation

  • Propagate Mimulus by divisions in spring and by cuttings in spring or summer.
  • Sow seeds outdoors in spring.
  • Seeds germinate in 5 to 7 days at 60° to 70°F (16°-21°C).
  • Mimulus will self-sow.

Mimulus varieties to grow

  • Mimulus x hybridus, hybrid monkeyflower. Tender perennial grows 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall; bears tubular flowers with flared 2-inch wide faces usually in shades of orange-red, red, or yellow; grow as cool-weather annual. ‘Magic’ series offers many colors. ‘Magic Yellow Flame’ has striking orange and yellow flowers.
  • M. luteus, yellow monkeyflower. Tender perennial grows to 12 inches (30cm) tall with long yellow flowers with red or purple-red spotted throats and petals; grow as a cool weather annual.

Mimulus frequently asked questions

Q: What are the best growing conditions for Mimulus?

A: Mimulus–monkey flower–must be grown where the climate is cool and humidity is high. Grow Mimulus in partial or full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Mulching will help prolong the life of the monkey flower.

Q: How do I start Mimulus–monkeyflower–from seed?

A: Do not cover Mimulus with soil when sowing seeds. The seeds need light to germinate. Give seeds and seedlings at least 13 hours of light each day. If you start seeds indoors, grow them under fluorescent light. Set transplants in the garden as soon as the soil is workable in spring. Mimulus can tolerate frost.

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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