Lobelia cardinalis lobelia cardinalis

    Perennial of the Month-- May 2013 Perry caricature



(low-beal' ee-ah  car-di-nall' us)  (pronunciation at link, turn up volume if too low)

Common name:  Cardinal Flower,Scarlet Lobelia

Family:  bellflower, Campanulaceae

Height x width: 2-3 x 1-2ft

Growth rate, habit: moderate, clump-forming with erect flower spikes

Foliage: dark green, lance-shaped to 4in. long, finely-toothed margins

Flowers:  bright red in late summer, tubular, flowers 2-lipped with the 3 lower lobes larger than the 2 upper, densely packed along tops of erect stems opening from bottom to top of stems

Hardiness: USDA zones 3-8

Soil:  average to wet, needs continually moist soil

Light:  full sun north (>6hrs per day direct), part shade (4-6hrs direct sun) south and hot regions

Pests and problems:  none significant

Landscape habit, uses:  borders, watersides and water gardens, moist woodlands, wildflower gardens, wildlife gardens, native plant gardens, cut flowers; combines well with astilbe, penstemon, black-leaved snakeroot, blue lobelia, Siberian iris, swamp milkweed

Other interest: attractive to hummingbirds (its pollinators) and butterflies including the swallowtail (not cardinals, this refers to the flower color), may be short-lived; also cultivars in white and rose; moderate resistance to deer and rabbits; native in much of North America (except the NW and upper Plains states); roots used by native Americans medicinally and as an aphrodisiac in food; all plant parts toxic if eaten in large quantities; not a true perennial in that the stem dies after seeds form, with new stems arising from the plant base 

Other culture:  may self seed in ideal conditions, divide plants if needed in spring, mulch helps maintain moist soil in non-moist sites, susceptible to frost-heaving if planted in fall

Propagation:  seeds (benefit from 3-months of cold-moist stratification), division (spring), stem cuttings early summer

Sources:  many online and local specialty nurseries and native plant centers, seeds from the Native Seed Network

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages