Friday, November 1, 2013

Candy Corn Plant

The blooms of Candy Corn Plant resemble the staple
Halloween candy "candy corn"
It's officially halloween weekend, and I can't think of a more fitting plant to write about than Cuphea micropetala, commonly known as candy corn plant.  The common name is derived from the fact that the fall blooms closely resemble the staple halloween candy "candy corn".  In Knoxville, this Cuphea is at the height of flowering the week of the haunted holiday.

Candy corn plant is a hardy annual / tender perennial in zones (7)8-10, and is grown as an annual in cooler climates.  The glossy green foliage is evergreen in areas where this plant returns perennially.  Site in full sun for best performance.  Candy corn plant prefers moist but well drained soil.  In Knoxville, I haven't seen this plant get much larger than 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  I've read that 'David Verity' is a good selection, but haven't seen it in cultivation.

The showy blooms aren't just attractive to gardeners -- butterflies and hummingbirds find the flowers irresistible as a source of nectar.  As a student intern at the University of Tennessee Gardens perennial border, I once watched several hummingbirds wage full out battle over who had the rights to our specimen of C. micropetala.  In my experience, sulfur type butterflies seem to prefer this plant as a food source more than the showy swallowtails or monarchs.

C. micropetala is an underused plant, especially in my region of the country.  I've only seen this plant in a handful of gardens, and only as a single specimen.  I'd love to see this plant en masse in a variety of landscape situations.  If you're in zones (7)8-10, right now or later in April would be a great time to plant candy corn plant.  For folks who garden in a cooler climate, wait until spring when the danger of frost has passed.

The photos for this blog are courtesy of the undergraduate teaching assistants for UT's course Plant Sciences 220: Landscape Plant ID I.  They upload tons of wonderful photos as a study aid to the class Facebook page.  The photographer was TA Austin H.

If you have any questions, ideas or suggestions, please feel welcome to post a comment below or to send me an email.

What are some other good plants for a halloween themed garden?

What's your experience growing candy corn plant?  How has this plant performed in your garden?

Mature selection of Candy Corn Plant from the UT Gardens