Cupheas are native to Mexico and Brazil. There are around two hundred and sixty species and they are mostly low growing annuals, perennials or shrubs with tubular flowers and small leaves. Don looked at two new varieties, ‘Starfire’ and ‘Tiny Mice’. He was interested to observe that both plants are very attractive to Australian native honeyeaters.
Tiny Mice (Cuphea ‘Tiny Mice’)
This small shrub only grows about 40cm (15″) tall. The red and purple flowers resemble mouse ears, hence its name. Flowering begins in spring and continues through to autumn. ‘Tiny Mice’ likes a position in full sun or part shade, and is frost and salt tolerant. It is useful as an accent plant in garden beds, in containers, or for poolside or seaside plantings. Plants die back in winter but regrow in spring. ‘Tiny Mice’ will grow anywhere in Australia.
Starfire (Cuphea ‘Starfire’)
This is a low growing cuphea with brilliant red flowers. It makes a good container specimen, or can be planted in garden beds or rockeries. ‘Starfire’ is suitable for the warmer areas of Australia, and is also worth a try in inland zones. Choose a warm sunny spot, protected from frost.
Ask for Cuphea ‘Starfire’ and Cuphea ‘Tiny Mice’ at your local nursery or garden centre. Plants in 140mm (6″) pots cost around $10-$12.