Cardinal Flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Family: Campanulaceae (kam-pan-yew-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lobelia (low-BEE-lee-a) (Info)
Species: cardinalis (kar-dih-NAL-iss) (Info)
Synonym:Lobelia splendens
Synonym:Lobelia fulgens
Synonym:Lobelia speciosa
View this plant in a garden

Category:

Perennials

Foliage Color:

Bronze-Green

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us

Height:

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Spacing:

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 2a: to -45.5 C (-50 F)

USDA Zone 2b: to -42.7 C (-45 F)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Red

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Foliage:

Smooth-Textured

Shiny/Glossy-Textured

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Regional

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

,

Auburn, Alabama

Decatur, Alabama

Houston, Alabama

Barling, Arkansas

East Shore, California

Knights Landing, California

Long Beach, California

Hamden, Connecticut

Monroe, Connecticut

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Keystone Heights, Florida

Lutz, Florida

New Port Richey, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida

Trenton, Florida

Cordele, Georgia

Cornelia, Georgia

Dallas, Georgia

Milledgeville, Georgia

Algonquin, Illinois

Cherry Valley, Illinois

Divernon, Illinois

Downers Grove, Illinois

Frankfort, Illinois

Machesney Park, Illinois

Mackinaw, Illinois

Midlothian, Illinois

Hobart, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Cedar Falls, Iowa

Cedar Rapids, Iowa (2 reports)

Indianola, Iowa

Sioux City, Iowa

Yale, Iowa

Derby, Kansas

Olathe, Kansas

Shawnee Mission, Kansas

Louisville, Kentucky

Homer, Louisiana

Madison, Maine

Skowhegan, Maine

Parkville, Maryland

Valley Lee, Maryland

Boston, Massachusetts

Palmer, Massachusetts

Reading, Massachusetts

Mason, Michigan

Tecumseh, Michigan

Natchez, Mississippi

Ballwin, Missouri

Blue Springs, Missouri

Centerville, Missouri

Cole Camp, Missouri

Piedmont, Missouri

Saint Louis, Missouri

Greenfield, New Hampshire

Sandown, New Hampshire

Frenchtown, New Jersey

Hampton, New Jersey

Jersey City, New Jersey

Whitehouse Station, New Jersey

Whiting, New Jersey

Blossvale, New York

Croton On Hudson, New York

Garrison, New York

Jefferson, New York

Wallkill, New York

West Islip, New York

West Kill, New York

Concord, North Carolina

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Lake Toxaway, North Carolina

New Bern, North Carolina

Southport, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Fremont, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Newalla, Oklahoma

Bend, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Walterville, Oregon

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Altoona, Pennsylvania

Apollo, Pennsylvania

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

New Castle, Pennsylvania

New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Norristown, Pennsylvania

Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

Quakertown, Pennsylvania

West Chester, Pennsylvania

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Wakefield, Rhode Island

Conway, South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina

Johns Island, South Carolina

Ladys Island, South Carolina

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Salem, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Morrison, Tennessee

Mount Juliet, Tennessee

Rockwood, Tennessee

Viola, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Conroe, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Houston, Texas

Jacksonville, Texas

Katy, Texas

Murchison, Texas

Nacogdoches, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Princeton, Texas

Spring, Texas

Arlington, Virginia

Basye, Virginia

Blacksburg, Virginia

Chesapeake, Virginia

Great Falls, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Lexington, Virginia

Manassas, Virginia

Reston, Virginia

Roanoke, Virginia

East Hill-meridian, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Canvas, West Virginia

Birchwood, Wisconsin

Cambridge, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

Muscoda, Wisconsin

Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

25
positives
10
neutrals
1
negative
RatingContent
Neutral

On Dec 2, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

I've had a hard time overwintering Lobelia cardinalis and its hybrids. They form an evergreen rosette that does not seem to like having mulch on it.

"Lobelias are not true perennials, because the flowering stem and its associated roots die after setting seed. They are perennial in effect only because new offsets grow from the axils of the lowermost leaves and quickly put down their own abundant white roots. It is especially important, then, that these new offsets be coddled a little in the fall."--- William Cullina, Growing and Propagating Wildflowers

L. fulgens is not a synonym, but a separate, tender species native to Mexico and Central America.

L. x speciosa is the grex name given to hybrids between L. cardinalis and L. fulgens, which are ha... read more

Positive

On Oct 8, 2014, wakingdream from Allentown, PA wrote:

Lobelia cardinalis is the reddest red I've ever seen, nearly psychedelic in its intensity. It draws hummingbirds and bumblebees every year. I have it placed in rich soil which stays more moist than other areas and it gets full sun until about 1:30 pm. The reseeding is reliable, with rain storms washing the seeds in a little river to the cracks in the flagstone patio adjacent to the bed. Lobelia's root system is very distinctive and can help identify seedlings if you are pulling "weeds" and come across one. Roots remind me of a stark white mophead, with many strings emanating from the crown in all directions, quite close to the soil surface. Red Lobelia does not like to be mulched in winter, even though it is a temptation to place a blanket of needles on top, I resist. Snow I can't co... read more

Positive

On Oct 8, 2014, FlyPoison from Rock Hill, SC (Zone 7a) wrote:

I love planting this native to help attract hummingbirds and other beneficial creatures. In the South where I live they prefer shade and wet soil. I often find them growing along creeks, rivers and in boggy areas that have standing water for several months at time. Here they grow fine being submerged for long periods of time. They do best in rich and heavy soils.

Positive

On Feb 20, 2014, Lovehum from (Zone 6b) wrote:

Excellent hummingbird nectar plant. Vertical flower stalks. Grew best here in full sun, good moisture. It bloomed most heavily in August for me.

Positive

On Jul 4, 2013, nutsaboutnature from Algonquin, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

I Love this plant and so do the Hummingbirds!
They grow tall...very tall...mine grew 4-5 feet! The blooms are vivid red and they bloom during a time when many plants are finished, in late Summer to early Autumn.

I have them growing in two different beds, one partly sunny and one mostly shady. Almost every year in early Spring the mostly shady bed gets a little flooded.

This past Spring that bed was under about 2-3 inches of water as Spring thaw combined with heavy rains. That flooding lasted about 2 weeks.

Naturally, I assumed all my plants would be lost. Surprisingly, some of them survived...and thrived. One of them was Lobelia Cardinalis (Cardinal Flower).

Unfortunately, my first attempt at growing Cardinal Flower ... read more

Positive

On Sep 4, 2012, Bazuhi from Downers Grove, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

September 2012(First time growing this plant)
I wanted something for the hummingbirds so I ordered 4 plants from Forest Farm nursery a mail order catalog based on the reviews on this site..They say this plant is okay with zone 5 and will reseed easily. The plants arrived on August 30th and they look great..They are about 6-12 inches high and a single stem with new growth on the bottom. (I will have photos in my journal and will be included in my review of ForestFarms) I let them settle and acclimate then planted them on Sept 4th in an area that appears to remain damp at the end of a septic line. I am really hoping this is enough moisture for them to go wild with with additional water from me of course. Other plants have not done as well in this area due to the dampness so maybe I f... read more

Neutral

On Aug 13, 2012, amallen from Johns Island, SC wrote:

We have a few wild cardinal flowers that grow near a saltwater marsh in partial shade. They don't compete well with the other plants even though I see them occasionally in other wooded areas on the island.

I planted several giant lobelia and cardinal plants this past Spring. We had a very mild winter here on the SC coast so the deer shouldn't have been hungry. However, they nailed all the ones planted in the sun, literally tore them out of the ground and those in the shade have been eaten to the ground twice.

Positive

On Sep 24, 2011, penpen from North Tonawanda, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Excellent perennial for boggy/wet garden spots. Does well in sun or shade. Excellent nectar plant for hummingbirds.

Neutral

On Aug 25, 2011, gtr1017 from Roanoke, VA wrote:

I see these growing wild here in the area, I have observed that these plants like moisture and can handle some shade, I almost always see them growing on the creek bank. Something to consider when planting.

Neutral

On Apr 25, 2011, snowmanmaker from Maple Grove, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

I love this flower and have tried to grow it from smaller than gallon size with no luck. I have great luck with lobelia speciosa fan deep rose in gallon pots, so will try this from gallon pots this year. I'd say in my zone 4 garden they are less happy in partial shade than they are in part sun. Could have been too dry in one part shade spot also. If you need a gorgeous red, this is it--crossing my fingers!

Neutral

On Feb 21, 2011, alabamawoman from Huntsville, AL (Zone 7a) wrote:

I would like to add this plant to my shade garden area. Do you know if it will tolerate growing with a Black Walnut tree nearby? I have ferns, hostas, primroses, and heucheara (sp?) that grow well in that spot. Anyone with experience on this?

Neutral

On Sep 1, 2010, geneshere from Kent, WA wrote:

I like this plant, but....when I planted the plants they were brilliant red blossoms. This year (the 2nd or 3rd year) the 2 plants are now a deep, dark intense purple. Is there something that would cause the color change? I have not been able to locate any information about this plant changing it's color. They are still very beautiful, just not the brilliant red they were when I planted them.

Positive

On Jul 16, 2010, Clary from Lewisburg, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant is the superstar of my perennial garden.

The color is a brilliant true red that is very attractive to hummingbirds. Like another poster noted, the hummingbirds do guard and compete for this flower.

As another member also noted, the color is extremely vivid and will not compliment some other red flowers. My reds are limited to Crocosmia 'lucifer' and shrub roses for this reason.

This plant grows to about 5-6' tall in my garden. It is planted behind a birdbath in rich soil where the roots are in constant moisture and consistent shade. The flower stalks are in full sun.

I started with 3 mail order plugs a few years ago and now have a scattered clump about 2' square that has over a dozen flower stalks.

T... read more

Negative

On May 1, 2010, SalviaFanatic5 from Dover, DE wrote:

I wish this short-lived perennial didn't dissolve right before my eyes. It was hard to see that I bought such a nice looking plant in hopes it would continue on in my garden. It feathered out in the middle of some daylillies. I left it alone. It didn't like to be watered a lot so I watered once a week. It didn't survive. I hope this helps for those who live in my area.

Positive

On Dec 12, 2009, HummingbirdDude from Whitehall, PA wrote:

I have seen this plant growing wild along the river north of my house. I plan on purchasing some in the spring to add to my hummingbird/butterfly garden. I am going to try planting it in a container to make a boggy kind of habitat for it, since this plant likes wet conditions.

Neutral

On Nov 29, 2009, bgp1 from Tecumseh, MI (Zone 5b) wrote:

An interesting plant that is a maroon color with bright red flowers and an upright growing habit. Hummingbirds really like eating from the flowers. Here in Michigan these are considered a wildflower, however, for some reason they seem to act as an annual and only live for one growing season. Sometimes these become top-heavy and require staking and tying.

Positive

On Sep 29, 2008, beverly710 from Newalla, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

All of mine came up as surprises...I have no clue where they came from. They self sow profusely. I have harvested the seeds and they have never let me down...and grow just about anywhere I have spread the seeds. The hummingbirds flock to them and seem to stake them out as part of their territory, so they are a wonderful asset to any garden.

Positive

On Sep 22, 2008, heavenlybamboo from Centerville, MO wrote:

I have successfully rooted cuttings of this plant under a glass jar in a pot of miracle grow on my shady front porch. I have the red-violet or magenta colored form of the wildflower. It is not a hybrid.

Positive

On Jul 31, 2008, Cyprepedium from Palmer, MA wrote:

For decades I admired Lobelia cardinalis when I would encounter it in Massachusetts wetlands. I also found it when I lived in the Midwest and in Texas. Now that I am back in New England and have my own garden, I decided to try to grow this beautiful wildflower.

I purchased a plant in May 2008 from a reputable area nursery. It had three stalks. I planted it in a sunny location, and gave it plenty of water. As time went by, more stalks sprouted. I then bought four more plants. These four did not survive, probably because they were planted at a time when we had 90+-degrees weather (the heat was not helpful to the plants already stressed from transplanting). This year (2009), the first plant I had bought last year came back, strong and healthy. The nursery replaced the fo... read more

Positive

On Aug 16, 2007, dkm65 from Cedar Falls, IA (Zone 4b) wrote:

One of the most intense, deep red flowers. The only drawback is that it will make you realize how your other red flowers aren't as intensely red as you thought in comparison. It is must in a native rain garden, and likes well-drained soil that gets a bit more rain runoff than usual (swales and depressions in your garden). It can tolerate some drought as well, as it is very deep rooted.

As others have said, it is a hummingbird magnet supreme. We have honeysuckle, trumpet vine, columbine, monarda, royal catchfly, etc., but none of our other hummingbird-attracting plants draw them like cardinal flower.

It looks really good interplanted with its sibling great blue lobelia (L. siphilitica) with its blue flowers matching the cardinal flowers in intensity of colo... read more

Positive

On Jun 21, 2007, JasperDale from Long Beach, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I have had enormous success with this lobelia, which I planted from 4" pots. The first year, they just sort of sat there (like most perennials), but each successive year the plants have done wonderfully, and I have divided them several times. They are extremely easy to grow and only require being consistently moist, and not allowed to dry out.

A great brilliant red !

Positive

On Aug 8, 2006, Happy_1 from Chicago, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

This is 37" out of the pot and doing great. I got it when is was very small and it's just doing great in 10b ZONE.....

I was a bit confused at the beginning because the flower arose from a stem that was over an inch wide. Infact it looked like more of a stalk then a stem. Hap

Positive

On May 6, 2006, j3soft from New Castle, PA wrote:

Hummingbirds flew to the plants as I was carrying them to the backyard after purchasing them at Lowe's Garden Center.

Hummingbirds fiercely guard my Lobelia cardinalis, sometimes even chasing me away from them.

Easily grown and propagated.

Positive

On May 1, 2006, pineapplesage from Pewaukee, WI wrote:

The hummingbirds would not leave this flower alone. It survived the winter and came back in my zone 5. Always a positive. I did need to stake the flower stalk a bit in the midwest winds.

Positive

On Oct 5, 2005, woodspirit1 from Lake Toxaway, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

The pH requirements listed for this plant are questionable. It grows in the Appalachian Mountains wild, but the soil is very acid. I also see it growing in ditches regularly. I don't think it needs good drainage. It may tolerate soil that is mildly alkaline but my experience is that it likes acid soil.

Positive

On Jan 27, 2005, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

While I have not yet tried to grow the domesticated version of this plant at my current Zone 7 location, when I lived in a Zone 6 mountain area of Virginia, I had quite a few of the wild plants growing along the marshy edges of a stream that flowed thru a dense woodland area of my property.

The plants were truly lovely & the flowers seemed to "glow" in the dense shade. A really true brilliant red. With all the deer we had there, they never touched these plants, so I assume that this might be a good plant for gardeners with a moist shady area + a deer problem.

Positive

On Jan 26, 2005, pokerboy from Canberra
Australia (Zone 8b) wrote:

This plant has a beautiful, firey red flower. In cold winter areas much to protect from frost heaving. In the warmer winter areas winter mulch may rot the crowns. This plant selfsows prolifically. pokerboy.

Neutral

On Oct 11, 2004, tcfromky from Mercer, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

The Lobelia species contains alkaloid lobeline which is poisonous in large doses but in small quantities is used in a number of medicinal preparations used quit smoking, revive persons from drug overdoses or as a psychoactive drug.

An interesting historical account relates that cardinal flower and lobelia, in sites in Nebraska were found in close association to historic Pawnee villages, suggesting the Pawnee introduced and cultivated it. Another source relates that Cherokee medicine men cultivated it for medicinal purposes.

Positive

On Sep 14, 2004, julie88 from Muscoda, WI (Zone 4b) wrote:

This plant pops up in the shady dampish back water marsh areas of the Wisconscin River (zone 4b). But ut never seems to show up in the same place two years in a row.

Positive

On Sep 7, 2004, sparkyann2 from Madison, ME wrote:

Hummingbirds like this. Great late bloomer in my area when most bright colors have faded.

Neutral

On May 29, 2004, beverlyf from Weimar, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have just planted a Cardinal Flower Lobelia in a damp area. I hope it will survive there. I bought it at a watergarden nursery.

Positive

On Apr 24, 2004, max2cleo wrote:

excellent pond plant

Positive

On Jan 28, 2004, flowerman from Saint Louis, MO wrote:

a hummingbird magnent.

Positive

On Sep 15, 2003, dreamer from Natchez, MS wrote:

I found these plants flowering near the bank of the lake where I live. I am watching carefully for ripe seeds for my garden. The flowers are absolutely beautiful and blooming when my late season garden could use a big shot of dazzaling color like this.

Positive

On Jan 9, 2003, ButterflyGardnr from Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

The plants I have produced large, showy spikes of red flowers. It definitely prefers moist soil and will grow from seeds if the soil conditions are favorable. This flower is a hummingbird attractor.

Neutral

On Aug 31, 2002, Baa wrote:

An upright perennial native to North America.

Has lance shaped, mid to bronzy green, shiny, toothed leaves borne on reddish or green fleshy stems. Bears 2-lipped, bright red flowers on tall flower spikes.

Flowers July - September

Loves a moist but well drained soil in sun or light shade. Make sure the soil never dries out for too long.