Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Magic Flower, Sacred Flower of the Incas
Cantua buxifolia

Family: Polemoniaceae (po-le-moh-nee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cantua (KAN-tew-uh) (Info)
Species: buxifolia (buks-ih-FOH-lee-uh) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

13 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Scarlet (Dark Red)

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 14 photos.
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1 positive
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral lolonurse On Oct 12, 2007, lolonurse from Poway, CA wrote:

I'm including a version of the tale which describes how it came to be called the Sacred Flower of the Incas. I have only just gotten this plant, so I don't know how it will do in my very unforgiving little microclimate in San Diego. I am planting it in an area with a bit of afternoon filtered shade, as it gets brutally hot in our yard, and crossing my fingers!
The Inca legend associated with the Cantuta is the tale of two kings named Illimani and Illampu, and their sons. Both kings were powerful and wealthy rulers of a vast country in the Kollasuyo region (today's Bolivian Altiplano), and both had a son they and their people held in great esteem. But as time passed, the kings became irritated at each other's prosperity, and eventually one of them attacked the other.

During the battle, both kings were mortally wounded by their counterpart, and were carried away. On their dying bed, both called their son and had them make the vow to avenge them, even if both sons were opposed to the war in the first place. Bound by their pledge, they prepared and led a second war even though they held no grudge against each other. History repeated, and both sons inflicted a fatal wound to the other.

But instead of harsh words, they generously forgave each other, and asked that their servants place them side by side on the green grass of the battlefield. Then appeared Pachamama, Goddess of Fertility, who told the young kings before they died that they shouldn't have suffered from their father's unjustified enmity. To punish their dead fathers, their stars fell from the sky, and became the snow covered mountains still named Illimani and Illampu, which are the highest peaks in the region.

The rivers of their snow slowly melting are their tears of regret, and fertilized the valleys. The Cantuta bloomed as a symbol of the people's unity, and bear the two colours of the king's sons (red and yellow), as well as green (standing for hope).

Neutral macybee On Oct 12, 2007, macybee from Deer Park, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Cantua - Scared Flower of the Incas, Magic Flower
This small genus is made up of 6 species of semi-evergreen shrubs from the Andes of South America, characterized by pendulous, trumpet-shaped flowers on weak stalks. This characteristic is a feature of many unrelated flowers in the Americas that are pollinated by hummingbirds - with their amazing ability to hover they can obtain nectar from such flowers, which are inaccessible to other birds and insects. Only one species. Cantua buxifolia, is widely cultivated, valued for the elegance of its profuse flowers often in stark contrast with the bare, untidy stems and branches.
Cultivation: Cantuas require a mild climate without extremes of hot or cold and a sunny open position; in colder areas they prefer a sheltered position against a warm wall. They do best in moist, well-drained, fertile soil. Shape can be improved by tying back stems and pruning back longer growths; however, keep in mind that flowers are borne on the previous season's twigs. Propagate from seed or cuttings, which strike fairly readily.
C buxifolia
This species grow about 6-10' high with erect stems and arching branches. The leaves are small, grayish green and rather fleshy. The flowers, borne in late spring, vary on different plants, most evident among plants raised from seed. In gardens a rose-purple shade is popular but pink, white and pink-and-white striped flowers are also seen. Sometimes the normal pink-flowering form also bears branches with yellow and white flowers and different foliage.
Zones 8-9.

Positive kente On Jul 20, 2004, kente from Oakland, CA wrote:

I saw this plant while traveling in the Andes in December 2003. It was gorgeous, flowering in the backyard of a B&B we stayed at in Cuzco. At first, I thought it was a fuschia but was informed by local people that it was cantua. Imagine my excitement to find it in a garden center in Oakland CA. It is growing by leaps and bounds and already requires transplanting to a new pot and needs to be staked, after about 6 weeks. It gets about 4-5 hours of sun in the midday and is shaded in the later afternoon.

Neutral KDePetrillo On Dec 31, 2003, KDePetrillo from North Scituate, RI (Zone 6a) wrote:

I grow this as a greenhouse plant in Zone 5. The information I have is that it is hardy to 35 degrees (Zone 10). It blooms here December thru June; it will grow to 4' in a container and requires full sun.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Albany, California
Calistoga, California
Cambria, California
El Cerrito, California
Encinitas, California
Fairfield, California
Mckinleyville, California
Napa, California
Nipomo, California
Oakland, California
Richmond, California
San Diego, California
San Jose, California (2 reports)
San Leandro, California
Temecula, California
Vista, California

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