How to Grow and Care for Candy Corn Plant

Candy corn plant branch with narrow leaves on top of yellow and red tubular flowers closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Candy corn plant (Cuphea micropetala) 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.

This Mexican native 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. Plant this flower in the spring to see blooms by late summer.

Common Name Candy corn plant
Botanical Name Cuphea micropetala
Family Lythraceae
Plant Type Shrub, annual
Mature Size 3 ft. tall, 2 ft. spread
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Orange, yellow
Hardiness Zones 8-11 (USDA)
Native Area North America

Candy Corn Plant Care

The candy corn plant is a member of the Cuphea genus containing more than 250 perennials and semi-woody shrubs native to tropical and temperate regions.

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 siting 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 their blooms. Within their hardiness zones, cut candy corn plants back hard in late winter to encourage a new flush of growth in the spring.

Candy corn plant stems growing vertically with narrow leaves and yellow and orange tubular flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Candy corn plant with upright red stems and light green narrow leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Candy corn plant with upright stems and yellow and orange tubular flowers hanging around narrow leaves

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

A candy corn plant that's planted in full sun will reward you with the highest bloom count. Plants will also grow in partial sun, though with fewer blooms.

Soil

Despite its delicate blooms, the 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 and 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 an inch of good compost around the plants each spring does improve vigor and blooming.

Types of Candy Corn Plant

  • Cuphea ignea, also called the cigar plant, looks almost identical to Cuphea micropetala, but C. ignea's blooms tend to be a bit more orange than bicolored.
  • Cuphea melvilla handles chilly regions and its blooms look more like little firecrackers than candy corn, though they share the same coloration.
  • Vermillionaire Large Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire') produces larger tubes of more orangey blooms.
  • Moullava spicata, a different genus that is also called candy corn plant, offers tall, dense, spiky flowers on thicker branchlike stems.

Propagating Candy Corn Plant

There are two easy ways to propagate candy corn plants to increase your collection: cuttings and division.

To propagate with cuttings:

  1. In the spring, cut about 4 inches from a non-blooming softwood stem.
  2. Insert the stem into a small pot filled with moist potting soil.
  3. Place in a partially shady location, and keep constantly moist until roots develop, which takes about six weeks.

To propagate by division:

If you live in a warm region and your candy corn plant survives from past seasons, you can easily propagate it by division. This also rejuvenates plants that get too woody after a few years in the same location.

  1. Dig around the plant and lift it out of the ground.
  2. With a garden fork or shovel, split the plant into two or three pieces depending on the size of the plant clump.
  3. Replant the pieces in the soil at the same level as the original plant.
  4. Keep the new plants and the original well watered until established.

How to Grow Candy Corn Plant From Seed

You can also easily grow this plant from harvested seeds. As candy corn plant flowers fade in the fall, 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 them lightly into the soil's surface. Keep moist in a brightly lit spot until germination occurs, usually within two weeks.

Potting and Repotting Candy Corn Plant

Candy corn plants can grow in large containers or urns outdoors, using an all-purpose potting soil. Any material container will do, and make sure the pot has drainage holes. 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.

Common Pests

The candy corn plant is a low-maintenance plant that is generally free from pest and disease issues. Aphids may pester the plant's leaves, but spray them off with water or use neem oil to deter the bugs.

FAQ
  • What’s the difference between a candy corn plant and candy corn vine?

    A candy corn plant is also frequently mistaken for a candy corn vine (Manettia luteorubra). They are entirely different species from unrelated genera, but the flower resemblance is quite close. Candy corn vine (sometimes called firecracker vine) is a twining, climbing plant.

  • Can you grow a candy corn plant indoors?

    Candy corn plants generally grow much too large to keep tidy in pots as indoor plants. It's best to grow them outdoors in the ground or in large containers.

  • Do candy corn plants come back every year?

    This species is perennial in warm climate zones (USDA 8-12) so depending on where you live, you may see it come back yearly. However, it is often grown as an annual in cooler climates.