How to Grow and Care for Candy Corn Plant
Updated: 18 Nov, 2023
The Candy Corn Plant (Cuphea micropetala) is a petite evergreen shrub with a semi-woody nature, earning its name from the candy-like appearance of its flowers. Resembling the iconic confection, its clumping growth features slender leaves adorning upright red stems, from which emerge tubular flowers in hues of yellow and red, evoking the familiar colors of candy corn kernels.
Native to Mexico, this charming plant is a popular choice for border beds, cottage gardens, and as an edging plant along walkways. It also thrives as a container plant on decks and patios. Beyond its visual appeal, the Candy Corn Plant serves as a magnet for butterflies and other pollinators. For a vibrant display, plant these flowers in the spring, and you’ll be rewarded with delightful blooms come late summer.
|Candy corn plant
|3 ft. tall, 2 ft. spread
What is a Candy Corn Plant?
The Candy Corn Plant, scientifically known as Cuphea micropetala, is a small semi-woody evergreen shrub appreciated for its distinctive tubular flowers that closely resemble the colors of candy corn, a popular Halloween treat. Native to Mexico, this ornamental plant is characterized by clumping growth with narrow leaves covering upright red stems. The flowers, typically yellow and red, mimic the appearance of the iconic candy corn kernels.
Candy corn plants are commonly used in border beds, cottage gardens, and as edging plants along walkways. They are also suitable for container gardening on decks and patios. Beyond their visual appeal, these plants are known for attracting butterflies and other pollinators. With a preference for full sun, well-draining soil, and moderate watering, candy corn plants add a burst of color and charm to gardens, particularly during the late summer bloom period.
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.
For optimal blooming, plant your candy corn in full sun, which will reward you with a profusion of flowers. While the plant can tolerate partial sun, expect fewer blooms in such conditions.
The candy corn plant, despite its delicate appearance, is hardy and can endure clay soil and the salty environment of a beachside garden. However, it does not fare well in wet or boggy soils.
Once established, candy corn plants exhibit drought tolerance. Providing about an inch of water per week during the growing season is sufficient to maintain their thriving condition.
Temperature and Humidity:
Hailing from Mexico, candy corn plants thrive in warm weather and are adaptable to various humidity levels, thriving equally well in both dry and humid climates.
Known for their robust nature and ability to flourish in poor soils, candy corn plants generally don’t require supplemental fertilizer. Using fertilizer may lead to excessive foliage at the expense of blooms. However, enhancing vigor and blooming can be achieved by spreading an inch of quality compost around the plants each spring.
Types of Candy Corn Plant
- Cuphea ignea, commonly known as the cigar plant, closely resembles Cuphea micropetala, with the main distinction lying in its blooms that lean towards a more vibrant shade of orange rather than the bicolored appearance of its counterpart.
- In contrast, Cuphea melvilla thrives in cooler climates, showcasing blooms reminiscent of miniature firecrackers rather than the classic candy corn look, although sharing similar coloration.
- For those seeking larger, more vivid blooms, the Vermillionaire Large Firecracker Plant (Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’) is an excellent choice, boasting tubes of blooms with a distinct orange hue.
- Exploring a different genus, Moullava spicata, also known as the candy corn plant, offers a unique take with tall, dense, spiky flowers adorning thicker branchlike stems, providing a distinctive variation in both appearance and structure.
How do I Propagate Candy Corn Plants?
Propagating Candy Corn Plants can be done through cuttings or division. Here’s a guide on each method:
- Propagation with Cuttings:
Timing: Choose spring for this method when the plant is actively growing.
- Selecting Cuttings:
Cut about 4 inches from a non-blooming softwood stem using sharp, clean pruning shears.
Insert the cut end of the stem into a small pot filled with moist potting soil.
Place the pot in a partially shady location to protect the cutting from direct sunlight.
Keep the soil consistently moist until roots develop, usually within six weeks.
- Once roots are established, transplant the young plant to its desired location.
Propagation by Division:
Timing: Division is best done in warmer regions and is suitable for mature plants.
- Preparing for Division:
Dig around the plant, lifting it carefully from the ground.
Using a garden fork or shovel, divide the plant into two or three sections, depending on the size of the clump.
Replant the divided sections in the soil at the same level as the original plant.
Keep the new plants and the original well-watered until they are established.
Whether you choose cuttings or division, providing proper care, adequate watering, and suitable conditions will contribute to the successful propagation of your Candy Corn Plants.
Propagating Candy Corn Plant
Expanding your candy corn plant collection is a breeze with two straightforward propagation methods: cuttings and division.
Propagation with Cuttings:
During spring, snip approximately 4 inches from a softwood stem that is not currently blooming.
Insert the cut stem into a small pot filled with moist potting soil.
Position the pot in a partially shady location, ensuring constant moisture until roots develop—typically around six weeks.
Propagation by Division:
In warmer regions, where your candy corn plant has thrived through previous seasons, division offers a convenient propagation method. This process also revitalizes plants that may become overly woody after spending a few years in the same spot.
Carefully dig around the plant and lift it from the ground.
Utilizing a garden fork or shovel, divide the plant into two or three pieces based on the size of the clump.
Replant the divided sections in the soil at the same level as the original plant.
Maintain consistent watering for both the new plants and the original until they are well established.
How to Grow Candy Corn Plants from Seed
Growing the candy corn plant from harvested seeds is another straightforward approach. Here’s how to do it:
- As the candy corn plant’s flowers fade in the fall, keep an eye out for papery seed capsules. Collect the brownish-green seeds from these capsules.
- Ensure the temperature is consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit for successful seed growth.
- Because seeds require light to germinate, gently press them into the soil’s surface.
- Keep the soil consistently moist and place the planted seeds in a brightly lit location until germination occurs. This process typically takes around two weeks.
Candy corn plants, like many other plants, can be susceptible to certain pests. Here are some common pests that may affect candy corn plants:
Small, soft-bodied insects that often cluster on the undersides of leaves.
They can suck sap from the plant, causing distortion and yellowing of leaves.
- Spider Mites:
Tiny arachnids that feed on plant sap, causing stippling and discoloration of leaves. They often produce fine webbing, which can be noticeable on the plant.
Small, flying insects that congregate on the undersides of leaves.
They feed on plant sap and can transmit plant viruses.
- Scale Insects:
Small, often immobile insects that attach themselves to stems and leaves.
They can weaken the plant by draining sap and secreting a sticky substance (honeydew) that attracts other pests.
Slim, elongated insects that feed on plant tissues by puncturing and sucking out cell contents.
They can cause stippling, silvering, or distortion of leaves.
Soft-bodied insects covered in a white, waxy substance.
They feed on plant sap and can weaken the plant over time.
Larvae of various moths or butterflies that may chew on leaves and flowers.
Handpicking or using natural predators can help control caterpillar infestations.
- To manage pest issues:
Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests.
Use insecticidal soaps or neem oil for control, especially on the undersides of leaves.
Introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs or predatory mites to control pest populations.
Maintain good garden hygiene by removing debris and weeds that may harbor pests.
Always be cautious when using pesticides and consider environmentally friendly options to minimize harm to beneficial insects and the overall ecosystem.
Can Candy Corn Plants be Grown from Seeds?
Yes, candy corn plants can be grown from seeds. Harvest seeds from faded flowers in the fall, plant them on the soil’s surface and keep them moist in a well-lit area for germination.
What are the Common Pests Affecting Candy Corn Plants?
Common pests include aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, scale insects, thrips, mealybugs, and caterpillars. Regular inspection and natural control methods can help manage pest issues.
How Should I Care for Candy Corn Plants in Different Light Conditions?
Plant them in full sun for the highest bloom count, although they can also thrive in partial sun. They are adaptable to various light conditions but may produce fewer blooms in shade.
What Type of Soil do Candy Corn Plants Prefer?
Candy corn plants are hardy and can tolerate clay soil as well as the salty conditions of a beachside garden. However, they do not grow well in wet or boggy soils.
Do Candy Corn Plants Require a Lot of Water?
Once established, candy corn plants are drought-tolerant. During the growing season, providing about an inch of water per week is generally sufficient to keep them thriving.
When is the Best Time to Plant Candy Corn Flowers?
Plant candy corn flowers in the spring to enjoy blooms by late summer. This timing allows the plants to establish themselves before their flowering season.
The Candy Corn Plant (Cuphea micropetala) stands out as a captivating and ornamental addition to gardens, renowned for its charming tubular flowers reminiscent of the beloved Halloween candy. With its clumping growth, narrow leaves, and vibrant coloration, this Mexican native thrives in various settings, from border beds to cottage gardens and containers on decks or patios.
Whether propagated through cuttings, division, or grown from seeds, cultivating and expanding a collection of these plants is a rewarding endeavor. Their hardy nature, adaptability to different light and soil conditions, and drought tolerance make them a resilient and versatile choice for gardeners.