It's no accident that some of the showiest plants in the garden are named after mouth-watering candy: 'Candy Stripe' phlox and chocolate cosmos conjure up visions of sweet blossoms that look good enough to eat. In the case of the candy corn plant, it's easy to see how the the plant got its name. Tubular flowers cover the stems of this showy plant, sporting two-toned orange and yellow flowers that look just like your favorite Halloween candy. The long blooming season and low care requirements make candy corn plants a favorite in sunny cottage gardens and rustic garden designs.
- Botanical Name: Cuphea micropetala
- Common Name: Candy corn plant, cigar plant
- Plant Type: Tender perennial
- Mature Size: Three feet tall and two feet wide
- Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
- Soil Type: Average
- Soil pH: Slightly acidic to neutral
- Bloom Time: Summer to fall
- Flower Color: Orange and yellow
- Hardiness Zones: 8, 9, 10, 11
- Native Area: Mexico
How to Grow Candy Corn Plants
Gardeners who have experienced a mature candy corn plant will tell you it's a centerpiece in any pollinator garden, attracting scores of butterflies and hummingbirds with its tubular, nectar-rich blossoms. Candy corn plants are easy for beginners, as they require little care beyond proper sitting in the warm, sunny garden.
Full sun will reward you with the highest bloom count on your candy corn plants. Plants will also grow in partial sun, with reduced blooming.
In spite of its delicate blooms, candy corn plant is tough, and will tolerate clay soil as well as the salty conditions of a beachside garden. Candy corn plants do not grow well in wet or boggy soils.
Once candy corn plants are established, they are drought tolerant plants. An inch of water per week in the growing season is adequate to keep plants thriving.
Temperature and Humidity
As natives of Mexico, candy corn plants relish hot weather. They aren't picky about humidity, and will grow in dry or humid climates.
Candy corn plants are known for their rugged nature and their ability to thrive in poor soils. Supplemental fertilizer isn't necessary, and may trigger plants to produce excess foliage and fewer blooms.
Potting and Repotting
Use an all-purpose potting soil for candy corn plants. Repotting isn't necessary in plants grown as annuals, but may help patio plants that have spread beyond the bounds of their pots after a few years.
Propagating Candy Corn Plant
Increase your candy corn plant collection by taking softwood cuttings from plants in the spring. Cut about four inches from a non-blooming stem, and insert the stem into moist potting soil. Place in a partially shady location, and keep constantly moist until roots develop, which takes about six weeks.
If you live in a warm region and your candy corn plant survives from past seasons, you can propagate it by division. This also rejuvenates plants that can get too woody after a few years.
Toxicity of Candy Corn Plant
According to the California Poison Control System, Cuphea species are non-toxic plants. In fact, Cuphea micropetala has been used as a traditional medicine in its native habitat.
Because the flowers grow all along the stems of candy corn plants, you can prune the plant to give it a tidy shape without sacrificing any flowers during the growing season. Cut the plants back hard in late winter to encourage a new flush of growth in the spring.
Being Grown in Containers
Candy corn plants can grow in large containers or urns outdoors. They are generally too large to grow in pots as indoor plants. Choose a container at least 18 inches to accommodate these large plants.
Growing From Seeds
As candy corn plant flowers fade, look for papery seed capsules and collect the brownish-green seeds. Seeds won't grow in temperatures lower than 70 degrees F. Seeds need light to germinate, so press lightly on the soil surface. Keep moist until germination occurs, usually within two weeks.
Candy Corn Plant vs. Candy Corn Vine
Candy corn plants resemble candy corn vines very closely; in fact, an internet search for one plant might lead to information on the other plant. However, the two plants are not related, and are not even in the same genus. When purchasing plants, be sure to look for the Latin name: Candy corn plants (Cuphea micropetala) are shrubs, and candy corn vines (Manettia luteorubra, sometimes called firecracker vine) climb with twining tendrils. The flowers of both plants look very similar, and make pleasing companions in the sunny landscape.