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Plant Profile: Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Lobelia cardinalis cardinal flowr 2Cardinal flower is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial native to North America where it grows in moist to wet areas such as stream and river banks, pond edges, marshes and swamps.  It is a member of the bellflower family, Campanulaceae, that also includes balloon flower (Platycodon), and ladybell (Adenophora).  The dark green lance-shaped leaves are rough textured, three to six inches long and borne on unbranched hairy stems. Vivid red tubular flowers are produced in racemes twelve to eighteen inches long and are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Each flower has two lips, the upper with two lobes, the lower with three lobes. Plants bloom in late summer into fall for four to six weeks. They are relatively short-lived but selfseed. Cardinal flower is an excellent choice for a rain garden and naturalize well without becoming aggressive or invasive. Cultivars varying primarily in color are available. The common name refers to the bright red garments worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Tubular, two-lipped vivid red flowers are produced in racemes up to 12-18 inches long in late summer into fall; white and pink flowers possible

Size: 2-4′ H x 1-2′ W

Light: Full sun to partial shade; needs some shade in hot climates

Soil: Rich, humusy, moist to wet; can not dry out

Care: Pinch to encourage bushiness; deadhead to encourage rebloom

Hardiness: Zones 3-9

Pests and Diseases: None of significance but susceptible to leaft spots, rust, smut; snails and slugs

Propagation: See (sow in fall or give three months stratification andsow in spring), cuttings in mid-summer, division or rosettes in fall

Companion Plants: Bonset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Outstanding Selections:
”Alba’ (white flowers)
‘Heather Pink’ (soft pink flowers)
‘Angel Song’ (salmon and cream flowers)
‘Rosea’ (pink flowers).

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