Ballistic Cuphea a new choice for your hummingbird garden

Ballistic Cuphea
Ballistic Cuphea

Almost everyone is thrilled when hummingbirds visit their garden. It is really a matter of picking out the right flowers such as the new Ballistic, a variety of Cuphea ignea. Cupheas have always been among my favorites because though they are tropical in nature they are stalwart garden performers throughout the country.

The Cuphe ignea gives reference to the Latin word for fire, hence common names like firecracker flower or firecracker plant. Ballistic however is different. Instead of red flowers, there are loads of dark lavender blossoms borne on a more compact plant with a good branching habit. You will also love the fact that Ballistic blooms almost all growing season making it an outstanding buy even if you are in a colder region whereby you will be treating it as an annual.

It is from Mexico and the Caribbean, where it takes on an evergreen shrub-like habit. In zones 8 and 9 it will get knocked to the ground by freezes but normally returns faithfully in the spring provided it doesn't sit in water during the cold winter.

The Cuphea llaeva or Bat Faced cuphea is another choice hummingbird plant. The bat-faced cuphea is still often sold generically, but Georgia Scarlet and Tiny Mice are becoming well known selections. The new Totally Tempted has swept awards across the country so keep your eyes open!

No hummingbird garden would be worth its salt however without the Cuphea micropetala. This is a large flower species reaching over three feet tall with much larger orange and yellow blossoms. Some refer to this as the Giant Cigar Plant. It too will return from winter temperatures of around 10 with good mulch. Get your camera ready to take pictures of the hummers on this one!

Regardless of which cuphea you choose, select a site in full sun and plant in well-drained soil. Set out plants 12 to 24 inches apart, planting at the same depth they are growing in the container. Apply a good layer of mulch, water to get established and then enjoy.

Your children or grandchildren will love looking at flowers that remind them of Mickey Mouse or firecrackers. Nothing is hard about growing these plants other than smoothing out the feelings of friends and neighbors who get jealous.

In early summer, pinch growth as needed and more branching will follow. Feed in mid-summer and again in early fall with a light application of a balanced, slow-released fertilizer. These species are drought tolerant, but watering during long dry periods will pay dividends come fall.

Remember the bat-faced cuphea can grow 2 feet tall and the cigar or firecracker cuphea can reach 3 to 5 feet tall. Plant where the kids can see them and watch the hummingbirds feed.

Use them informally in the garden rather than lined up like soldiers. They work well with zinnias and firebush, or planted in partnership with lantana. The warm weather is in my region now and will be advancing. Make plans to add some cupheas to your garden!

Contact Norman Winter at:


Loading comments...
Hide Comments