If you are looking for a special flower to impress your guests and your plant-loving family members, you might want to check out the amazing Lobelia cardinalis a.k.a. Cardinal flower! As attractive as it obviously is, this plant will impress any gardener, be it a beginner or an experienced one.
Lobelia cardinalis, also known in cultivation as Cardinal flower, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Campanulaceae family. This fancy flower has everything it needs to find some room in your personal plant collection: besides its unique, vibrant appearance, it is also very easy to grow, care for, and even propagate.
Without a doubt, the Cardinal flower has gained lots of popularity worldwide as an ornamental plant. Although the species alone is more than enough for every respectable grower, it also comes along with other hybrids and forms to choose from. The most appreciated Cardinal flower cultivars include L. cardinalis ‘Queen Victoria’ (red flowers and silvery-burgundy foliage), L. cardinalis f. alba (white flowers), and L. cardinalis f. rosea (pink flowers).
Keep reading to find out more about the Cardinal Flower!
About Cardinal Flower
- Cardinal flower is native to various regions of the Americas, starting from southeastern Canada through the United States, Central America, Mexico, and northern Colombia. It grows mostly in wet places, swamps, and streambanks.
- The Lobelia cardinalis species and the gorgeous L. cardinalis ‘Queen Victoria’ cultivar are among the winners of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.
- This plant is super versatile, being a welcomed addition to all types of landscape decorations. It is a wonderful plant for cottage gardens, wild gardens, butterfly gardens, bog gardens, rain gardens, beds, borders, and near streams or ponds.
- Cardinal flowers will look absolutely fabulous near other species of plants. The most suitable companions are Bee Balm, Blue Vervain, Bristly Buttercup, Monkey Flower, Montbretia, Red Hot Poker, Sneezeweed, Spotted Cowbane, Swamp Milkweed, Swamp Rose, Water Parsnip, and Wild Iris.
- The profusion of hypnotic, cardinal red flowers is a magnet for several species of pollinators. The blossoms attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects.
- Zuni people use Cardinal flower as an ingredient in the recipe of “schumaakwe cakes”. On the other hand, Penobscot folks smoked the dried leaves of this plant as a substitute for tobacco.
- Cardinal flower plays an important part in traditional medicine. This plant is thought to relieve the symptoms of different health problems, such as stomach aches, fever, colds, headache, nosebleed, swelling, worms, rheumatism, syphilis, and epilepsy,
- Lobelia cardinalis is potentially toxic to both humans and animals if ingested in large quantities. For safety purposes, make sure you grow this flower in a location where your curious kids, cats, or dogs cannot reach them.
Cardinal Flower Features: An Overview
- Cardinal flower belongs to the Lobelia genus that consists of 415 species of flowering plants. It shares this genus with other eye-catching species like L. chinensis, L. erinus, L. inflata, L. laxiflora, L. sessilifolia, L. siphilitica, L. telekii, L. tenuior, or L. tupa.
- Lobelia cardinalis is an herbaceous flowering perennial. It is a clump-forming plant that can reach from 2 to 4 feet (60-120 cm) in height and 1 to 2 feet (30-60 cm) in width.
- Its foliage comprises slightly large, glossy, lanceolate to oval, tooth-edged, and bright green leaves that appear alternately arranged on upright stems. The leaves measure up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length and a maximum of 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
- Cardinal flower usually blooms from summer through early autumn. During this period, it exhibits brilliant, deeply five-lobed, two-lipped bloomings on erect racemes of up to 28 inches (70 cm) tall.
- The flowers can grow as long as 2 inches (5 cm). They show up in various shades of red. Like its relatives L. siphilitica (Great lobelia) and L. inflata (Indian tobacco), Cardinal flower excretes a milky liquid from its blossoms.
Growing Cardinal Flower
The lighting preferences of the Cardinal flower will directly depend on the area you are growing it in. In general, the plant can thrive in full sunlight to partial shade. If you live in a region with cold temperatures overall, this flower will grow just fine in plenty of bright, direct light. In hotter climates, however, Cardinal flowers will appreciate some shade, especially during the intense afternoon sunlight and summer months.
In terms of temperatures, the Cardinal flower is hardy in the USDA zones 3 through 9. Although this plant can tolerate a wide variety of temperatures, you will still have to protect it from freezing conditions or frost to help them overwinter. As a rule, the best way to do this is to add a layer of mulch around the roots of your Cardinal flower in early fall.
From time to time, some pests like aphids, spider mites, snails and slugs, or leafhoppers may bother your Cardinal flower. These intruders tend to feed on the leaves and stems of your plant, so it will be pretty easy to spot them on time. If you notice any suspect moves on your Cardinal flower, you can apply neem oil or insecticidal spray once every week to get rid of the pests.
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- Red cardinal is a perennial wildflower that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, but not cardinals!
- Usually found near woodland streams or swamps, it prefers moist conditions. Grow this wildflower in partial to full sun. Cardinal flower grows in clumps, and plants can reach 2 to 3 feet tall. They bloom in the late summer and early fall.
- Plant cardinal flower seeds in the late fall or early spring. They can be slightly difficult to germinate and need to be placed in a freezer for 60 days before planting in the spring. This is not necessary for late fall plantings.
- Comes with complete planting & growing instructions!
- QUALITY - All seeds packaged by Seed Needs are intended for the current and the following growing seasons. All seeds are stored in a temperature controlled facility that is free of significant amounts of moisture.
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Planting Cardinal Flower
Cardinal flower does well in moist to wet soils that are rich in organic matter and nutrients. This plant will be your best friend if you are the type of gardener that tends to water its companions too often. Unlike other species that develop root rot in lots of moisture, the Cardinal flower actually loves this particular condition. Besides the reason mentioned above, we suggest you mulch the soil of your plant to increase moisture retaining.
Another great feature of the Cardinal flower is that it does not require frequent fertilizing to grow healthy and happy. In fact, the plant will perform nicely only with an application every year. For optimal results in the following active growing period, make sure you add some compost and other organic materials in the soil in either late winter or early spring.
If your Cardinal flower begins to grow somewhat leggy, you can always trim it back to obtain that attractive bushy appearance. Likewise, it is wise to remove all spent blossoms you can find from your Cardinal flower. This process will provide this plant with an overall clean look and also promote further blooming. Still, you should know that deadheading may prevent the plant from self-seeding, which could affect the next year’s growth.
Watering Cardinal Flower
Since Cardinal flowers can grow in a wide range of conditions, especially wet ones, it is almost impossible to over-water them. All you have to do to keep your plants in shape is to maintain their soil constantly moist. Or even wet! Make sure you provide your Cardinal flowers with a nice, deep drink whenever the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch.
When it comes to humidity, there is no surprise that Cardinal flowers enjoy plenty of it. If you live in a region with frequent rainfalls, these plants will be in their element. However, in drier areas, we recommend you mist your plant regularly to keep the humidity levels as high as possible.
Propagating Cardinal Flower
If you want to enrich your plant family with more Cardinal flower beauties, the solution is right under your nose. You can easily propagate your plant through division or seeds. Both methods require no prior experience of propagating other plants and will typically show lovely results in little to no time.
To propagate your Cardinal flower using division, you must first dig the plant out of the soil in either spring or autumn. After this process, cut the root system into two or three sections, then replant each of them in its own permanent location. Likewise, you can remove young specimens that grow around your mature Cardinal flower and transplant them wherever you want to.
Cardinal flower tends to self-seed, so you will not need to collect its seeds to start new plants. However, if you want to keep the seeds for another time, you can collect and store them in the refrigerator until the time is right. Make sure you remove the seeds from the mother plant only when the seed pods begin to open.
Once you are ready to make more Cardinal flowers, remove the seeds from the refrigerator, then sow them on top of moist soil. The seeds will germinate better if you sow them about six to eight weeks before the last frost from your area indoors in a container. Place the seeds in a well-lit location and keep the substrate constantly moist. When the last danger of frost has passed, you can transplant the young Cardinal flower seedlings into the garden.
If you are a big lover of unique flowering plants, Lobelia cardinalis a.k.a. Cardinal flower is a must-have that you’ll enjoy seeing every summer. Its vibrant, brilliant red flowers will not only bewitch you with their obvious charm but will also catch the eye of any passerby.!
Are you growing Lobelia Cardinalis a.k.a. Cardinal Flowers? Let us know in the comment section!