Southern Gardening: Vermillionaire blooms, attracts until first frost

 

The flowers of Vermillionaire cuphea resemble little firecrackers, and they appear in abundant numbers up and down the stems and all over the entire plant. It blooms from May through frost.

The flowers of Vermillionaire cuphea resemble little firecrackers, and they appear in abundant numbers up and down the stems and all over the entire plant. It blooms from May through frost. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension Service

 

Gary Bachman

 

 

Last week, I had the pleasure of being the kick-starter speaker for the Mississippi Master Gardener State Conference. My wide-ranging presentation included some of my recommendations of sure-fire, must-have plants for your landscape and garden, all Mississippi Medallion plants. 

 

One I talked about was Vermillionaire cuphea, a plant I'm really impressed with and think every landscape should have. 

 

Vermillionaire cuphea is perennial in zones 8a and warmer, so this covers a large portion of Mississippi. For gardeners in north Mississippi, go ahead and use this plant as a great flowering annual. You won't be disappointed. 

 

One of the reasons I like Vermillionaire is because it does not require a lot of care. The only time I prune mine is when I cut it back to about 6 inches in the early spring to make room for the new season's growth. 

 

The common name for Vermillionaire is firecracker plant, and I think the flowers do resemble little firecrackers. The plant produces abundant yellow, red and orange tubular flowers up and down the stems and all over the entire plant. It literally is a mound of fiery-hot flowers and quite the sight all summer long. 

 

Over the past several years, my Vermillionaire plants have been in flower from May through November or December, depending on frost. They were a little late this year and are just starting to open up due to a late spring frost that took out the initial growth. 

 

Vermillionaire cuphea is a magnet for pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds. This plant is visited almost daily in the late afternoon or early evening of summer months by an unusual insect known as the hummingbird moth. These are day-flying moths that resemble hummingbirds in flight and feed on flower nectar. 

 

I also like seeing the different bumblebees drawn to this plant. In the fall, my Vermillionaire plants are literally buzzing when I walk by. Bumblebees feed in an interesting fashion. Since they're way too big to go in the flower opening, they just grab onto and chew through the flower petals to gain access to the delicious nectar. 

 

By the end of summer, this plant will easily get 3 feet tall and wide when grown in-ground. In a big container, my plants get closer to 4 feet tall and wide. Container-grown plants get bigger because of the increased drainage in the container system. 

 

Be sure to plant your Vermillionaires in full sun for the best flowering and tighter growth. Though the Vermillionaire tolerates droughty conditions, my plants enjoy my irrigation system that maintains consistent root zone moisture. 

 

Feed monthly with a balance fertilizer to keep the flower production going. 

 

Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]

 

 

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