By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is a Mexican heather plant? Also known as false heather, Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) is a flowering groundcover that produces masses of bright green leaves. Small pink, white or lavender flowers decorate the plant throughout most of the year.
Mexican heather plants, which actually aren’t members of the heather family, are suitable for growing in the warm climates of USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. You can grow Mexican heather as an annual if you live in a chillier climate.
Planting Mexican heather is uninvolved, although the plant benefits from a little added compost or manure if soil is poor. Allow at least 18 inches (46 cm.) between each plant.
This tough, drought-tolerant plant loves direct sunlight and thrives in intense heat. Remember that although Mexican heather plants grow in a wide range of soils, good drainage is critical.
Water Mexican heather plants deeply about once every week, then allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again. Container plants will need water more often, especially during the summer months.
Prune Mexican heather lightly during the spring if the plant looks scraggly or overgrown. Otherwise, no pruning is required.
Surround the plant with a thin layer of mulch in spring to minimize moisture evaporation and keep weeds in check.
Feed the plant in spring, summer and fall, using a balanced, general-purpose fertilizer.
Healthy Mexican heather plants are seldom bothered by insects. However, if you notice spider mites during hot, dry weather, treat the pests with insecticidal soap spray on a day when the sun isn’t directly on the plant.
Insecticidal soap spray with a few drops of rubbing alcohol will also take care of flea beetles.
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Also known as Mexican heather or elfin herb, false heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) grows from 8 inches to 2 feet tall with narrow glossy green leaves 1/2 to 1-inch long. Tiny trumpet-shaped flowers about 4/10 of an inch across appear in the axils of those leaves, usually in shades of purple, though pink and white varieties are available. Native to Mexico, Central America and the southeast U.S., false heather is perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 11. Its compact size also makes it suitable for use as a houseplant.
Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia), also known as false heather, is a member of the family Lythraceae. Native to Mexico and Guatemala, Mexican heather is a perennial evergreen that prefers warm, tropical climates such as those in USDA planting zones 9 and 10. It will live in zone 8, but might die to the ground in winter and return in spring. It will grow best planted outdoors in these planting zones. In all other zones, Mexican heather should be planted in containers where the climate can be controlled.
Bring container-grown Mexican heather indoors, in the event of a freeze or frost, as it is very cold-sensitive. Place the container in a sunny, warm area and do not place outdoors until the weather has warmed.
Water the soil around the Mexican heather well, being sure it reaches down to the plant’s root system, at least 24 hours before a frost or freeze. This will give the plant’s root system extra protection during the cold weather and keep it warm.
Mulch around the plant with cypress mulch, pine bark, leaves or pine needles to help the soil retain warmth. This will also allow the soil and root system to retain moisture.
Cover the Mexican heather with a sheet, blanket or some other type of covering made out of cloth. Plastic will burn the plants once the sun rises. Place bricks, dirt, wood or some other type of material on top of the cloth to keep it in place if the weather is windy as well as cold.
Place a 60-watt outdoor light under the blankets covering the Mexican heather, to help produce more heat. String a strand of Christmas lights around the plant’s foliage, if a hard freeze is not expected. This will give the plant a constant supply of heat, as well as a festive look.
Mexican heather grows to a height of 24 inches and forms a mound 18 to 36 inches in diameter, making this a good plant to use in borders.
Mexican heather blooms year-round with flowers in purple, lavender and the less-common white.
Mexican heather is relatively drought-tolerant once established and has very few pest problems.
Wait until spring to prune the Mexican heather if the plant gets frost-burned. Continue to protect the plant during cold snaps, but areas of the plant that look dead might come back to life in springtime.
In USDA Zones 7 and 8, treat it like a perennial for spring-to-fall interest in beds and borders. Elsewhere, enjoy Mexican heather as an annual, either in the ground or in pots. In any area, the fine-textured foliage and flowers make it a perfect partner for bolder leaves and blooms.
Beside above, does Mexican heather come back year after year? Only gardeners in frost-free areas can count on Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) to come back year after year. The plant, native to Mexico and Guatemala, needs the heat of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11 to thrive.
Regarding this, how do you take care of Mexican heather in the winter?
How to Care for Mexican Heather in Winter
Can you cut back Mexican heather?
Mexican heather doesn't need much pruning, but if your plant starts to look unkempt, you can shear back the plant by a third of its height to encourage tighter, more compact growth.
The ferny, evergreen foliage and dainty lavender flowers of Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) add long-lasting color and texture to gardens within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11. Its low stature and spreading growth habit make Mexican heather an ideal choice for ground cover, especially since multiple plants can easily be rooted from a single, healthy specimen. Rooting Mexican heather cuttings takes very little effort and a whole new plant will emerge in just three to six weeks. However, the cuttings will root most reliably root if gathered in early summer and treated with rooting hormone.
Root Mexican heather cuttings in summer when the shrub is actively growing. Gather a 5-inch-long portion from the tip of the stem. Choose one with a pliable stem and a leafy tip. Avoid cuttings with flowers or buds.
Detach the Mexican heather cutting 1/8 inch below a pair of mature leaves. Make the cut with a utility knife or a pair of freshly cleaned pruning shears. Wrap the cutting in a moist paper towel while preparing a container.
Fill a 4-inch square pot with a mixture of half horticultural sand and half milled sphagnum moss. Pour water into the pot until the mixture is saturated. Let the water soak in and drain off for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pull off the leaves along the bottom half of the Mexican heather cutting. Coat the stem and the severed end with rooting hormone powder. Use a small paintbrush or cotton swab to apply the powder.
Poke a 2 1/2-inch-deep hole in the horticultural sand mixture. Insert the hormone-coated tip of the cutting into the hole. Firmly press the sand mixture in around the stem.
Place the potted Mexican heather cutting outdoors under light dappled shade. Protect it from strong wind and direct sunlight since they will dry out the foliage and cause the cutting to fail.
Mist the cutting two to three times daily to keep the foliage from drying out. Use a spray bottle with a fine mist setting, an atomizer or a garden hose with a misting head. Increase misting during periods of intense heat.
Check the moisture level in the horticultural sand mixture daily. Add water only when the top inch feels dry when probed. Drizzle water onto the sand in small increments until it feels thoroughly moistened in the top inch.
Check for roots three to six weeks after potting the Mexican heather cutting. Very lightly tug on the base of the stem and feel for movement. The cutting is rooted if it feels "stuck" to the soil.
Grow the Mexican heather cutting under partial shade with weekly watering until it shows signs of stem and leaf growth. Gradually acclimate it to direct sun over five to seven days, then transplant it into a partially shaded garden bed.
Samantha McMullen began writing professionally in 2001. Her nearly 20 years of experience in horticulture informs her work, which has appeared in publications such as Mother Earth News.