Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

The shape and color of cardinal flower attracts hummingbirds to the garden.

Common name: Cardinal flower

Botanical name: Lobelia cardinalis

Virtues: Long bloom time, from midsummer into autumn. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

Flowers: Spikes of bright red flowers rise above the plant from July to September. Flowers face outward and slightly up, making them ideal feeding stations for hummingbirds. White- and rose-colored varieties exist. A related species, Lobelia siphilitica, has blue flowers.

Habit: Clumping herbaceous perennial, 2 to 4 feet tall and half as wide.

Season: Summer.

Origin: Damp to wet areas, such as stream banks, swamps and damp woods, of the eastern half of North America.

Cultivation: Grow in partial shade, in moist soil. Tolerates wet soil. Individual plants are short lived but in good conditions they will spread by self-sowing. Tolerates more sun in cool climates. USDA Zones 3–9.

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5 thoughts on “Cardinal Flower

  1. Pingback: Perennial Plants that Attract Butterflies - All About Gardening

  2. I have several plants of Cardinalis, Fried Green Tomatoes, and the blue variety, and am wondering how can I keep them growing upright and not fall down as much? Mine are in partial sun, very heavy but moist soil.

    • Hi, Jay. Thanks for stopping by. It seems like your plants should be happy with the soil’s moisture and the light level. I’ve looked into it and several resources suggest the heavy soil shouldn’t be a problem as long as there is consistent moisture.

      Lobelias tend to get floppy if they are given too much fertilizer. The best thing to do for them is to dress the site with compost in the spring, or to apply just a very small amount of slow-release fertilizer one time in the spring.

      You can also try cutting the plants back in early summer, before they flower. Perhaps May or early June, depending on where you are. Flowering will be delayed by a couple weeks, but the plants will be shorter and thus less prone to flopping.

      Finally, here’s an article fro our archives on staking.

      I hope this helps.

      —Meghan Shinn, editor

  3. It would be nice if you could include a source to buy seed for the featured plants. I love the red cardinal flower, lost mine and haven’t seen seed for sale anywhere.

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