How to Grow and Care for Monkey Flowers

yellow monkey flowers (mimulus)

The Spruce / Courtesy of DDM

Monkey flowers (Mimulus sp.) are a genus of flowering perennials known for their colorful blooms and ability to attract pollinators. Depending on the species, these low-maintenance plants may grow best in moist soil and part shade or sandy, well-drained soil and full sun. It's thought that monkey flowers earned their common name because their blooms resemble a monkey's face.

The genus Mimulus once included over 100 species of flowers, but after a restructuring of the genus based on DNA, only seven remain, including species native to North America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Remaining species were reclassified mostly as Erythranthe and Diplacus, and many of these are still commonly referred to as monkey flowers.

 Common Name:  Monkey flower
 Botanical Name:   Mimulus sp., Erythranthe sp. (former) and Diplacus sp.(former)
 Family:   Phrymaceae
 Plant Type:   Herbaceous perennial
 Mature Size:  1-3 ft. tall, 8-12 in. wide
 Sun Exposure:   Full, Partial
 Soil Type:   Moist, Well-drained
 Soil pH:   Acidic
 Bloom Time:   Spring, Summer
 Flower Color:   Red, Orange, Yellow, Purple, Pink
 Hardiness Zones:   3-8 (USDA)
 Native Area:   North America, Asia, Africa, Australia

Monkey Flower Care

Monkey flower care varies by species. Here are the main requirements for growing monkey flowers in your garden.

  • Plant in well-drained moist to wet soil, depending on species.
  • Choose a spot that gets full sun to part shade. Moisture-loving species grow better in part shade.
  • Some species prefer frequent watering that keeps soil consistently moist, while others are drought tolerant.
  • Feeding isn't necessary if planted in rich soil.
yellow monkey flowers (mimulus)


Closeup of yellow monkey flower mimulus

The Spruce / Courtesy of DDM


Monkey flowers grow well in full sun (at least six hours of sun per day) to part sun (two to six hours of direct sun per day). Some species, like the Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens) will do better in part sun. A good compromise is a site that gets full sun in the morning but dappled shade in the afternoon, when the light is stronger.


Many monkey flower species like are tolerant of wet soils, making them a colorful addition to rain gardens or boggy areas. Some, including Mimulus 'Pamela' (Mimulus aurantiacus var. grandiflorus) grow best in sandy, fast-draining soil. Monkey flowers can be planted in containers with a standard potting mix amended with organic compost.


Some species, including the Allegheny monkey flower, scarlet monkey flower (Erythranthe cardinalis), and seep monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus), prefer frequent waterings that keep the soil evenly moist. Some can even tolerate occasional flooding. Others, like the bush monkey flower, also called the sticky monkey flower (Diplacus aurantiacus), are drought tolerant once plants are established.

Temperature and Humidity

Different monkey flower species are adapted to the temperature conditions in their native areas, so it's best to seek out species native to your region. Allegheny monkey flower, native to eastern North America, is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. Bush monkey flower originates in California and can be grown as a perennial in zones 5-10.


Work compost into the soil four to six weeks before planting monkey flower to add nutrients. As long as you're planting in good-quality soil, it's not necessary to fertilize throughout the growing season.


Colorful monkey flowers are a great source of nectar for pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. In fact, different species of monkey flower will attract different types of pollinators based on flower color, pattern, and shape.

Types of Monkey Flower

More than three-quarters of monkey flower species are native to North America, but most grow as wildflowers. Here are a few commonly cultivated types of monkey flower:

  • Allegheny monkey flower (Mimulus ringens): This monkey flower offers pale purple blooms and a high tolerance for wet, boggy soil, making it excellent for rain gardens.
  • Seep monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus): Also called golden monkey flower, this North American native offers showy, early-blooming yellow flowers with red-speckled centers that attract pollinators.
  • Scarlet monkey flower (Erythranthe cardinalis): Native to the Pacific coast, this moisture-loving monkey flower is known for its red, tube-shaped blossoms. This species grows well alongside streams and ponds.
  • Bush monkey flower (Diplacus aurantiacus): Plant this drought-tolerant Pacific coast native in sandy, well-drained soil. Sometimes called sticky monkey flower, this species is enjoyed for its large yellow or orange blooms.
Mimulus ringens
Allegheny monkey flower

The Spruce / Courtesy of DDM

Mimulus guttatus
Seep monkey flower

The Spruce / Courtesy of DDM

Mimulus Maximus Yellow Blotch
'Yellow Blotch' monkey flower

The Spruce / Courtesy of DDM

Mimulus Curious Red
'Curious Red' monkey flower

The Spruce / Courtesy of DDM


Some types of monkey flowers, including Mimulus 'Pamela' and bush monkey flower, should be cut back in winter or early spring before new growth appears. Bush monkey flowers can be cut back after their first flowering to promote another bloom later in the season.

Propagating Monkey Flower

Some monkey flowers, including Diplacus species, are easy to propagate via stem cuttings. Others, like scarlet monkey flowers, are best propagated by dividing mature plants. Here's how to propagate monkey flowers.

How to Propagate Monkey Flowers From Cuttings

You'll need a small plant pot, potting soil, sterilized pruners, and water to propagate monkey flowers using stem cuttings.

  1. Fill a small plant pot with potting soil. Moisten the soil well and use your finger or a pencil to poke a hole a few inches into the soil.
  2. Take a six-inch tip cutting from a healthy stem with several leaves, making the cut just below a leaf node. Remove the leaves on the lower half of the cutting.
  3. Plant the cutting in the pot and pat the soil down around it to keep it in place.
  4. Put the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Keep the soil evenly moist.
  5. After about two months, gently tug on the cutting. If it resists, roots have grown and you can pot the cutting in a larger container and care for it as usual.

How to Propagate Monkey Flowers by Division

Some types, like scarlet monkey flower and Allegheny monkey flower, can be propagated by division in spring. You'll need gardening gloves, a shovel or trowel, and a sharp, sterilized knife or pruners.

  1. If dividing an in-ground plant, use the shovel to dig a trench all around the plant, then insert the shovel under the root ball and lift it up. If dividing a container plant, carefully tip the plant out of its pot.
  2. Examine the root ball. Gently pull the root ball apart with your fingers, or use a cutting tool to separate the root ball into sections. Ensure that each section includes portions of the root system as well as vegetative growth.
  3. Replant divisions quickly and water them well to help the plants recover.

How to Grow Monkey Flower From Seed

The best time to plant monkey flower seeds outdoors is in late fall so they have time for cold stratification, which helps with germination. You'll need a shovel, organic compost, seeds, and water.

  1. Prepare the planting site by working organic compost into the soil.
  2. Sprinkle seeds on the soil surface and pat them down gently. Avoid covering the seeds with soil because they need light to germinate.
  3. In spring, watch for germination. When seeds germinate, keep the soil evenly moist.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases 

One of the benefits of monkey flowers is that they're resistant to many common garden pests, including deer and rabbits. However, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for fungal diseases like powdery mildew, root rot, and botrytis blight. Insect pests like thrips and mealybugs can also affect monkey flowers.

How to Get Monkey Flowers to Bloom

Monkey flowers are known for their profuse, colorful blooms. Here's what to know about monkey flowers and how to keep yours blooming and looking beautiful.

Bloom Months

Monkey flowers' bloom time depends on the species and region. On the West Coast, monkey flowers may bloom as early as March and as late as October. In the Northeast, they tend to bloom from June through September.

How Long Do Monkey Flowers Bloom?

Monkey flowers bloom for several months at a time, from spring to late fall or early summer to early fall depending on the region.

What Do Monkey Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Monkey flowers get their name from the shape of their blooms. Plants have trumpet-shaped or tube-shaped flowers that resemble a grinning face with a tongue sticking out. Depending on the species, monkey flowers may be shades of yellow, red, orange, pale purple, or pink. Monkey flowers are planted for their bright colors and low-maintenance growth habit rather than their aroma.

How to Encourage More Blooms

In warmer climates, cutting back perennial monkey flower plants after the spring bloom can promote more vigorous flowering in late summer and fall.

Deadheading Monkey Flower

Deadheading monkey flowers, or removing spent blooms, will keep the plant looking healthy. It's best to deadhead before the flowers set seeds.

Common Problems With Monkey Flowers

As long as monkey flowers are planted in the proper conditions and given basic care appropriate to its species, it's a pretty problem-free garden plant. Here are a couple of issues to watch out for.

Dry or Brown Leaves

In regions with very hot, dry summers, monkey flower plants may appear dead during this time of year, then revive when rain and cooler temperatures arrive.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Your monkey flower's leaves turning yellow could be a sign of root rot caused by poor drainage or overwatering, particularly for drought-tolerant types. Cut back on watering.

Article Sources
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  1. How Monkey Flowers Attract Both Birds and Bees. University of Connecticut.