I remember the first time I saw Mexican heather. I was in a back yard in Tarzana inspecting the grounds when suddenly my curiosity was aroused by a weedy-looking plant growing in a shady planter bed.
But did it grow! There were several dozen plants in all stages of development in the bed. Not knowing its identity, I had assumed that anything that grew that well in waterlogged soil must be a weed.
Numerous seedlings, clearly growing from seeds that had fallen from the older plants, had cropped up throughout the bed.
During the last year or so, it seems that someone has been planting Mexican heather every time you turn around (Cuphea hyssopifolia). This plant is as well known as false heather thanx to its superficial lookalike to the true heathers in a different botanical group.
True heathers, also known as heaths, grow best in acidic soil and fast-draining in places like Scotland and the Pacific Northwest.
They are the most beautiful and their foliage looks more vibrant when there is plenty of sunshine. Plant them in the same place that they grow in pots and space them between 8-12 inches according to how dense or full you want the plants to become.
They’ll spread slightly. After they’ve grown it’s one of the least easy to maintain plants. You can give them a few drops of water when they’re in dry conditions for a long time.
If they develop an angular appearance (which isn’t normal, they are a good candidate for pruning. It helps them achieve a bushier form.
Mexican Heather Use
Mexican heather is promoted as a plant for either full sun or partial shade. Although the plant will grow in full sun, it does not look nearly as good as when it receives half-day sun or more minor.
The plant has several characteristics that have endeared it to home gardeners and landscaping professionals. It flowers virtually year-round. The most popular variety has flowers whose color is magenta violet. There is also a sort with white flowers.
Its foliage is a fresh, clean, and vibrant green, always looking like it had just been hosed off or washed by the rain.
Mexican heather will grow 2 to 3 feet tall. It can be used as a low hedge along walkways, mixed perennial plantings, or containers.
Although Mexican heather is occasionally found on lists of drought-tolerant plants, its foliage is lusher and its flowers more plentiful when its soil is kept moderately moist.
Scientific name: Cuphea hyssopifolia.
Growth habit: A rounded evergreen perennial growing too tall and wide feet. The leaves are medium to dark green, elliptic in shape, and growing to 1 inch long and half-inch wide.
Light: Plant in high sun to light shade.
Water needs: Tolerant of short periods of drought; grows best with weekly waterings.
Feedings: Apply a general garden fertilizer every six to eight weeks from March through November. A slow-release fertilizer may be substituted following label instructions.
Propagation: Start plants from cuttings.
Ease of culture: Easy.
Hardiness: Hardy; could be damaged by severe freezes but grows back from buds near the ground.
Major problems: Plant in nematode-free soil to avoid this pest. The foliage may be attacked by leaf-chewing blue metallic beetles and need control with a synthetic insecticide. Plantings tend to be short-lived, surviving for a year or two and needing replacement.
Pruning: Provide occasional pruning to maintain a compact growth habit and renew the flowering stems. Also, prune in late February to reshape the plants and remove cold damage.
Uses: Often planted as a border for flower gardens and along walkways. It may also be set in clusters to serve as a ground cover. The lavender, pink or white flowering plants are frequently added to butterfly gardens, which bloom most of the year.
Mexican heather thrives and flowers well in container gardeners, planters, and hanging baskets to set at entrances and display on patios.