If your garden landscape or indoor setting is missing a dash of red from its color palette, Cuphea ignea a.k.a. Cigar plant is here to help you out! Its delicate, bright, and fire-like flowers are a must-have in every grower’s collection, especially when they can keep you company for almost a year-round. But let’s get more familiar with this stunning friend!
Cuphea ignea, otherwise known as the Cigar plant, Mexican Cigar plant, Firecracker plant, or Cigar flower, is a dwarf species of flowering shrubs in the Lythraceae family. Native to several regions of Mexico and the West Indies, this plant grows mostly terrestrial, moist habitats.
Cigar plants have become popular ornamentals thanks to their charming and low-demanding nature. Although these nice-looking shrubs will request your attention more right after planting, they will get much easier to deal with once established. As a general rule, spoil them with lots of sunlight, warmth, and moisture and the reward will be right on its way!
About Cigar Plants
- Specimens with importance worldwide and lots of beauty, Mexican Cigar plants have gained the well-known Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
- Their botanical name, the specific epithet “ignea” means “on fire” or “glowing red” in Latin. Undoubtedly, this epithet refers to the red, fiery flowers of these plants that look very similar to firecrackers or burning cigars.
- Their blossoms are very rich in nectar and also highly attractive to pollinators like hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and ants. They make for wonderful additions to butterfly gardens, containers, or sunny garden beds.
- Cigar plants come with sticky foliage that turns them into inhospitable hosts to both pest larvae and adults. They also play a big part in agriculture, deterring different species of intruders like corn rootworms and others.
- Studies have shown that these plants have no toxic effects on either humans or animals if touched or ingested. You can safely grow them around your curious kids or furry friends.
- Mexican Cigar plants are excellent ornamental companions to other interesting species including Calibrachoa, Canna Lily, Castor Oil Plant, Dahlia ‘Moonfire’, Floss Flower, Marigold, Mexican Heather, Passionflower, and Spanish Needles.
Cigar Plants Features: An Overview
- Cigar plants belong to the Cuphea genus of about 260 species of perennial and annual flowering plants. They share this genus with spectacular species like C. hyssopifolia, C. lanceolata, C. oreophila, or C. viscosissima.
- They are perennial, evergreen dwarf shrubs or subshrubs that can reach from 12 to 25 inches (31-64 cm) in both height and width. They usually have an overall densely-branched and compact rounded shape.
- Mexican Cigar plants produce small, elliptical, and bright to dark green leaves that grow in whorls or oppositely arranged on thin, somewhat brittle stems. When younger, their branches have a pleasant light red colour.
- In general, Cigar plants can bloom anytime throughout the year in their natural habitat. However, their blooming period mostly lasts from spring through autumn in a pot or garden.
- Their flowers usually measure up to one inch (2.5 cm) in length and have no petals. The colourful tubular parts are, in fact, fused sepals called calyxes. They exhibit orange to red tints and come with various shades of white or purple-blue at their tips.
- Once their flowering season has ended, Mexican Cigar plants bear lots of fruits. These fruits are papery explosive capsules that contain numerous tiny and dark brown seeds.
Growing Cigar Plants
We know, cigar plants might seem a bit fussy at first, but they are actually quite friendly! With time, you will see that they get quite easy to grow and care for, no matter how much experience you already have in the gardening world. The only thing you will have to do is to pay attention to their basic growing demands which, by the way, are very few!
First things first, we need to talk about where you should grow your Mexican Cigar plants. These buddies prefer locations where they can receive full sunlight to partial shade daily. In temperate regions, however, they will do best under lots of bright and direct light. If these plants do not experience enough sunlight, they will grow slower and remain more compact in shape. Likewise, they may develop brown patches on their foliage.
When it comes to temperatures, Cigar plants require some protection from strong winds and freezing conditions. They are frost tender plants, thriving only in the USDA zones 10 to 12. If you live in an area with harsh winters, you can either grow these plants in pots and bring them inside in autumn or simply treat them as annuals.
Mexican Cigar plants are usually free from care regarding fungal diseases or pest infestations. Even if some intruders can visit them once in a while, they do not represent a danger for your beloved plants. In case you want to free your mind from worries, though, you can handpick the pests and apply neem oil on the foliage to prevent any future infest.
Planting Cigar Plants
Like most tropical species, Mexican Cigar plants grow at their best in any type of substrate as long as it is fertile. Because they are moisture-loving plants, but pretty susceptible to root rot, make sure you plant them in soil that also has excellent drainage. If you want to grow these plants indoors, look for containers that come with drainage holes at the bottom.
Although Cigar plants already bloom nicely in proper environmental conditions, they will need supplemental fertilizing during their growing season. Still, if you are growing them in fertile soil, you will not have to apply fertilizers too often. Feed your plants with a weak, balanced liquid fertilizer once every two or three weeks from spring through summer. In winter, you should skip fertilizing these plants for good.
When Cuphea ignea plants grow under plenty of sunlight exposure, they tend to become somewhat leggy. But no worries! You can give your plants that awesome bushy overall look by pruning them regularly.
We recommend you first pinch them back in early spring to create that nice, compact shape. When Cigar plants are actively growing, you should also remove any unhealthy stems, leaves, and spent flowers to make space for others to develop.
Watering Cigar Plants
In general, Mexican Cigar plants will have the time of their life if you provide them with a decent amount of watering. They are big lovers of moisture, especially during their period of establishment or their active growing season. But once the winter begins to show its chilling presence, you can significantly reduce the frequency of watering. Pretty simple, right?
Cigar plants are great start-ups for beginners. These shrubs are fairly drought-tolerant and can withstand hot summer months with little to no effort. If you let them experience dry conditions for too long, however, they will not bloom as usual. The perfect time to water your Cigar plants is once the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil feel dry to the touch.
As houseplants, these companions will benefit from regular misting to maintain the humidity levels they prefer. Cigar plants enjoy medium to high humidity and need a bit of help during hot, dry summers. Moreover, they will appreciate misting more often during the winter, particularly if you keep them in a room with a heating source.
Propagating Cigar Plants
Just look at their adorable appearance and tell us you do not feel the temptation of having more of these bushes. See? You can’t! The aura of Cigar plants is absolutely magnetic, so your desire is more than natural. Luckily, you can easily propagate them through stem cuttings or seeds without waiting for too long to see some results.
In autumn or winter, look for healthy stems and cut about 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) off each one. Once you have the cuttings, remove all the leaves you can find on their bottom half without touching those from the upper layer. After this process, you can dip the cut ends of your cuttings in rooting hormone, but this is not mandatory.
Plant the cuttings in a container filled with fresh potting soil and water them regularly to maintain the substrate constantly damp. Your Cigar plant cuttings should develop a healthy root system in several weeks or so. When their roots become stronger, you can transplant the cuttings into their individual pots or directly in the garden.
If you want to start more Cigar plants from seeds, it is best to sow them outdoors in the ground in late spring. However, if the temperatures are too low during that period, you can also start the seeds indoors in early winter. Although Cigar plant seeds have a hard coat, they typically germinate within a few weeks in lots of warmth and light.
Get yourself a Mexican Cigar bush (or more) and you will not regret it! Now that you know all their mysteries, you have the chance of becoming one of the coolest Mexican Cigar plant owners out there. Plus, their friendly nature will unconditionally help you get there, making your journey easier and more exciting than you could imagine!