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Light up your garden with lovely Cupheas! Salvias may be the queen of color in the garden, but the princess is Cuphea.  All species bloom in hues of red.

Although they are not in Salvias immediate family, they are companions, growing throughout the temperate and tropical Americas.

A group of Salvia enthusiasts, hunting for species in situ would often mistake the colorful Cupheas as they drove through the western mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Cuphea in the family Lythraceae, is not just a pretty face. As it turns out, Cuphea has a multitude of other uses. Farmers in North America are beginning to use some species of Cuphea in crop rotation such as corn, wheat and soy.  Industrial farming relies on an enormous amount of chemicals to sustain a monoculture and the insect that is combated with more pesticides than any other in this country is the highly destructive corn rootworm. Using a cover crop of Cuphea every 2 or 3 years has been found to disrupt the life cycle of the insect, providing a pesticide free solution for some farmers. Crop rotation of Cuphea has also been found to increase yields of some crops and produce a more protein rich harvest.  Cupheas are also catching on as a new source of important triglyceride oils and are a great replacement for palm seed and coconut oils, both of which are in extremely high demand and the cause for much deforestation in tropical climates. Seed oil of certain species also contain a very high percentage of lauric acid which is used in countless health and beauty products, along with soaps and detergents.

Cuphea aequipetala, a personal favorite, can be seen along the top of the North Trail.  This lovely ground cover, blooming spring to fall, trails beautifully through the brilliant blue Geranium ‘Rosanne’.

Although The plant patent giants have tried they can’t come up with anything better than the species Cuphea cyanea, or Black Eyed Cuphea.  This prolific bloomer of candy corn colored flowers can grow to18 inches but has never reached more than 12 inches where it welcomes visitors in the store front garden.

Cuphea llavea, commonly known as mouse ears, grows to two feet and bushes out to three feet with brilliant red ears, a purple face, on the end of a purple red tube. Absolutely gorgeous!  There are three or four cultivars in varying shades of red to orange.

Cuphea nelsonii ‘Wine Red’ is similar in color but shorter in stature and can be seen in the south bed off the Plaza.

Cuphea ‘Kirsten’s Delight’ has the long tube of C. ignea which is bright pink with violet ears and a white band on the edge of the tube.  In the perennial garden it has grown to 2 feet and is quite bushy with lavender colored Cuphea glutinosa growing under it.

Cupheas are easy to grow in full sun on the coast and filtered sun in hot areas when given rich humus soil and even moisture. The carefree non stop blooms are perfect for hanging baskets.  In fact the leaves are obscured by the flower power of this amazing group of plants, which are a heaven for the hummers.

Come to the Gardens for this lovely light show and stop by the nursery to see what is available.  These lovelies literally fly out of the nursery as fast as Janet produces them.