Candy Corn Plant Profile

Candy Corn Plant, Cuphea Micropetala

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Candy corn plant is a small semi-woody evergreen shrub that derives its name from the color and shape of the flowers, which closely mimic the familiar bulk candy by the same name. These are clumping plants with narrow leaves that cover upright red stems, from which bloom the yellow and red tubular flowers that resemble kernels of candy corn.

Candy corn plant (Cuphea micropetala) is member of the Cuphea genus containing more than 250 perennials and semi-woody shrubs native to tropical and temperate regions. This species is perennial in warm climate zones (8 to 12), but it is often grown as an annual in cooler climates. It is frequently planted in border beds and cottage gardens, or as an edging plant along walkways, and can also be used as a container plant on decks and patios. This plant is also great for attracting butterflies and other pollinators.

Botanical Name Cuphea micropetala
Common Name Candy corn plant
Plant Type Semi-woody shrub, often planted as an annual
Mature Size 3 feet tall, with a 2-foot spread
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Average, well-drained soil
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5; slightly acidic to neutral
Bloom Time Summer to fall
Flower Color Orange and yellow
Hardiness Zones 8 to 11, USDA
Native Area Mexico
Firecracker Plants
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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 a warm, sunny garden. They do best in ordinary, well-drained soil.

These plants may become leggy as the growing season progresses, and pinching them back can rejuvenate them and improve the blooms.

Light

Full sun will reward you with the highest bloom count on your candy corn plants. Plants will also grow in partial sun, though with fewer blooms.

Soil

In spite of its delicate blooms, candy corn plant is a tough species that 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.

Water

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 both dry or humid climates.

Fertilizer

Candy corn plants are known for their rugged nature and their ability to thrive in poor soils. Supplemental fertilizer isn't necessary, and may cause plants to produce excessive foliage at the expense of fewer blooms. However, spreading 1 inch of good compost around the plants each spring does improve the vigor and blooming of the plants.

Propagating Candy Corn Plant

Increase your candy corn plant collection by taking softwood cuttings from plants in the spring. Cut about 4 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 get too woody after a few years in the same location.

Pruning

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.

Growing in Containers

Candy corn plants can grow in large containers or urns outdoors, using an all-purpose potting soil. (They are generally too large to grow in pots as indoor plants.) Choose a container at least 18 inches to accommodate these large plants. Repotting isn't necessary for plants grown as annuals, but when growing them as perennials in warmer climates, it may help to repot them every few years as they fill their pots with dense roots.

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.

Compared With Cigar Plant, Candy Corn Vine

Candy corn plant is closely related genetically to the cigar plant (Cuphea ignea), with whom it shares a similar size and flower shape. The difference is principally the flower color. As the name suggests, cigar flower resembles the glowing embers of a burning cigar, with a warm red color and none of the yellow hues found in the blooms of candy corn plant.

Candy corn plant is also frequently mistaken for candy corn vine (Manettia luteorubra). Although they are entirely different species from unrelated genera, the flower resemblance is quite close; however, candy corn vine (sometimes called firecracker vine) is a twining, climbing plant. The two plants can make pleasing companions in a sunny landscape, and are sometimes planted together.