A clump-forming habit with brilliant red flower spires set against green and purple-bronze colored foliage. Each individual spike of flowers opens from bottom to top and stays in bloom for several weeks. Although relatively common, over picking this handsome wildflower has resulted in its scarcity in some areas. Since most insects find it difficult to navigate the long tubular flowers, this scarlet beauty depends on hummingbirds for pollination. As well as hummingbirds, it attracts butterflies and bees (our large and determined bumbles will pierce the corolla to obtain the nectar).
Cardinal flower needs constant moisture – soils should never be allowed to dry out. Tolerates brief flooding. Light mulch will prevent root heaving and help retain soil moisture. Although individual plants are short-lived, L. cardinalis will maintain its presence in a garden in optimum conditions by self-seeding. Seeds need light to germinate, so be sure not to cover the growing area with heavy mulch. Do not cut plants back in the fall. May be deadheaded to encourage rebloom, but make sure to leave some seedheads for self-seeding. May be pinched back in early summer if shorter, bushier plants are desired.
Height: 2-4 ft.
Spread: 1-2 ft.
Bloom time: July to September
Sun: full sun to part shade
Water: medium to wet
According to Rutgers University, Lobelia are “seldom severely damaged” by deer.
photo credit: David J. Stang