Cigar Flower – Cuphea platycentra

Cigar Flower is an evergreen perennial from Mexico which flowers profusely throughout the summer. The genus Cuphea includes annuals, perennials and sub-shrubs native to the Americas. The name Cupheo is taken from the Greek word, kyphos, meaning ‘curved’ and refers to the seed capsules.

Cigar Flower likes warm conditions during summer and appreciates being stood outside on a balcony or patio when the weather is sunny. The plant is frost-tender and it should be brought indoors in autumn as soon as temperatures begin to drop and given a cool rest in bright, frost-free conditions.

Cigar Flower blooms from May to September with 25mm (1 in) long flowers. The flower has no petals and consists of a bright red calyx with black and white markings at the tip. The flowers resemble miniature cigars tipped with ash. The plant has characteristically leathery, pointed leaves and grows up to 30cm (12in) tall.

Cigar Flower is often sold under the name C. ignea.Cigar Flower - Cuphea platycentra

Two other forms of this plant are also available: ‘Alba’, with white flowers, 5 and ‘Variegata’ which has characteristic red flowers coupled with attractive golden yellow markings on P. the foliage.

Other varieties of Cuphea are rewarding to grow. C. hyssopifolia, the False Heather, is the most common and has clusters of pink, lilac or white flowers in summer. C. miniato (C. Ilavea miniato) has red, six-petalled flowers and grows up to 60cm (2ft) tall.

Through The Year

November—February Give your plant a cool winter rest in a well-lit, frost-free place at temperatures of 10°— 13°C (50°-55°F). Water with care, giving sufficient to stop the compost drying out, and don’t feed.

March—April

Repot into soil-based compost and begin to give more water as the plant starts into active growth. Use a pot one size larger each year until the plant is in a 15cm (6in) pot. Sow seed and take tip cuttings from mature plants at this time.

May—October

Water generously and feed every 14 days with a standard liquid fertilizer. Keep in a bright position at 18°-21°C (65°-70°F), but provide protection from scorching mid-day sun. Mist spray frequently during the day and stand the pot in a saucer of damp pebbles to keep humidity high.

Propagation

Growing from seed

1 Sow seed in seed compost, during spring. Cover with ventilated polythene and keep at 18°C (65°F).

2 Prick out one seedling into a pot when large enough to handle.

Taking cuttings

To propagate the variegated-leaf form you must take cuttings during the spring.

1 Take tip cuttings 5— 8cm (2-3in) long and root in an equal parts mixture of peat and sand or perlite. Cover with ventilated polythene and keep in a warm, light place.

2 When cuttings are well rooted, pot on into individual pots of soil-based compost and treat as mature plants. Keep young plants out of direct sunlight until established.

Pests And Diseases

Aphids can attack young leaves and shoots. Treatment: Spray minor infestations with strong jets of cold water to dislodge the aphids. Use a pyrethrum or diazaninbased insecticide for severe attacks and repeat as necessary.

Mottled and deformed leaves indicate an attack of thrips.

Treatment: Dust or spray with malathion as soon as symptoms are noticed.

Brown patches on the leaves can be caused by poor light, cold draughts or feeding in winter.

Treatment: Cut back the affected parts and move it to a lighter position and do not feed.

PLANT CARE

Cigar Flower needs some care, especially during winter when overwatering can be lethal. It can be grown outdoors in summer but must be brought inside before the first frosts. Keep humidity high in warm weather.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based compost and repot plants in March and April.
  • Water generously during the period of active growth during spring and summer. Water the plant sparingly during the rest period.
  • Feeding: Feed plants with a liquid fertilizer every 14 days during growth. Do not feed while the plant is resting.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Cigar Flower likes a warm, bright spot with some protection from direct sunlight. Stand it outdoors in summer in a semi-shaded position.
  • Temperature: Normal summer temperatures are fine, but a cool, winter rest at about 10°— 13°C (50°-55°F) is essential.

Cigar Flower bears unusual, bright red blooms from May to September. As the name suggests, these are shaped like tiny cigars and have dark tips which look just like cigar ash.

The flowers are produced throughout summer and look like miniature cigars tipped with ash.

Buying Tips

  • Buy Cigar Flower in bloom from garden centres and nurseries during summer and early autumn. Contact a specialist nursery or seedsman for the more unusual varieties.
  • Choose a well-shaped plant with healthy green leaves and plenty of flower buds.
  • Cigar Flower is a perennial, but needs to be renewed by cuttings every two or three years. Alternatively, grow new plants from seed.

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