Story and Photos by Alan Pulley
Referred to as “bat-faced” because of its interesting little bat-faced deep purple and bright red blooms, Cuphea llavea has become a favorite summer annual for many gardeners, including myself.
Native to Central America and Mexico, bat-face cuphea thrives in full sun and heat. Blooms emerge in late spring and continue until the first fall frost. Its dense green foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the masses of colorful, nectar-rich flowers that attract a variety of pollinators, including hummingbirds. Bat-faced cuphea maintains its dense, rounded shape throughout the season, reaching approximately 1½-2 feet tall with a slightly wider spread. It is a very low-maintenance annual that is great for the front of a border, or any other spot that could use a spot of color. It also grows very in containers.
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name(s): Bat-faced cuphea, bat flower
Botanical Name: Cuphea llavea
USDA Hardiness Zone(s): 9-12
Color: Bright green foliage that contrasts nicely with its tubular purple calyx and red ear-like flowers.
Blooming Period: Late spring to fall
Mature Size: 1½-2 feet tall with a slightly wider spread
Exposure: Partial shade to full sun
When to Plant: Spring
Soil: Medium to well drained
Watering: Regularly until roots are established. Once established, cuphea will do fine with less water and can tolerate occasional periods of drought.
When to Prune: Not necessary; however, pinching back the stem tips will create a more compact plant.
When to Fertilize: Feed cuphea monthly during the growing season using a quality, all-purpose fertilizer. Fertilize more often if growing in a container.
In Your Landscape: Plant along the front of a bed or flower border, in pollinator gardens, container plant, or any other area that needs summer color.