PlantsLobelia→Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Common names:
Give a thumbs up Cardinal Flower
Give a thumbs up Red Lobelia

Botanical names:
Lobelia cardinalis Accepted
Lobelia fulgens Synonym
Lobelia cardinalis subsp. cardinalis var. meridionalis Synonym
Lobelia splendens Synonym
Lobelia cardinalis subsp. cardinalis Synonym
Lobelia cardinalis subsp. graminea Synonym
Lobelia cardinalis subsp. cardinalis var. cardinalis Synonym

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet
Wet Mesic
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 3 -40 °C (-40 °F) to -37.2 °C (-35)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 9b
Plant Height: 2 - 4 feet
Plant Spread: 1 - 2 feet
Leaves: Unusual foliage color
Fruiting Time: Fall
Flowers: Showy
Flower Color: Red
Bloom Size: Under 1"
Flower Time: Summer
Late summer or early fall
Suitable Locations: Bog gardening
Uses: Water gardens
Cut Flower
Will Naturalize
Wildlife Attractant: Bees
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Rabbit Resistant
Toxicity: Leaves are poisonous
Other: All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Propagation: Seeds: Stratify seeds: Needs 2 months cold moist treatment.
Needs specific temperature
Days to germinate: 14 to 120
Suitable for wintersowing
Propagation: Other methods: Division
Pollinators: Moths and Butterflies
Containers: Suitable in 3 gallon or larger
Needs excellent drainage in pots
Awards and Recognitions: RHS AGM


Wildflowers Attract Pollinators to Your GardensWildflowers Attract Pollinators to Your Gardens
By wildflowers on August 18, 2013

Do you want to attract bees, butterflies, and/or hummingbirds to your garden? The best way to lure pollinators into your garden is to plant things they love. Pollinators love wildflowers. These are a few of my favorites that are loved by pollinators and are easy to grow.

(Full article15 comments)
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Posted by kqcrna (Cincinnati, Oh - Zone 6a) on Sep 29, 2011 7:44 AM

Lobelia cardinalis will grow in full hot sun in dry areas of my yard, but under those conditions the plant tends to look stressed and leaves turn brown. It does better in areas with more protection from the hottest sun of the day and additional watering. Leaves look healthier and flowers last longer.

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Posted by mmolyson (Lilburn, GA - Zone 7b) on Oct 11, 2020 12:11 PM

As previously mentioned, the cardinal flower is a short-lived perennial. That is because it is a pioneer species. In nature, its seeds germinate on bare ground and the plants persist until crowded out by the next generation of plants in secondary (or primary) succession. Many people are disappointed when their cardinal flowers die after 2 to 3 years. The way to perpetuate your planting is to allow it to self- seed on bare ground. That means NO mulch. The basal rosettes are normally evergreen and will persist through the winter if they are not mulched, when mulched they tend to rot. I know this goes against the grain of gardeners, we want to mulch everything, but if you want to keep your cardinal flowers, resist mulching and don't crowd them.

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Posted by Catmint20906 (PNW WA half hour south of Olympia - Zone 8a) on Aug 24, 2014 6:09 AM

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a strikingly beautiful perennial that has great wildlife value. Butterflies and bees enjoy its blossoms, and it is also a source of nectar for hummingbirds. It enjoys medium to moist soil in part sun. Native to North America, it was used historically by American Indians as a medicinal root tea, and it has also been used in love potions.

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Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Feb 20, 2018 3:30 PM

This is an absolutely wonderful perennial that should only be grown in a garden or landscape if the soil is moist or draining wet. It prefers partial shade from the heat of the day, but can grow in full sun. It is a short-lived perennial, but it often self-sows to replace itself. Its native range is from New Brunswick through southern Ontario down to Florida to Oklahoma to Nevada to California. Some are sold by most conventional nurseries, and most native plant nurseries sell them. This is a great hummingbird flower that blooms fairly long in July into September.

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Posted by bloominholes2fill (Canton, OH - Zone 6a) on May 18, 2016 5:38 PM

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) does best with consistently moist soil and morning sun, in zone 6a. It will stress during drought conditions, with its shallow roots, so mulch is a must. It's best to divide only in the spring or fall to keep shock at a minimum. Cardinal Flower draws the eye up in the garden and its blooms open going up the spike. It's just stunning in mass plantings!

One of my favorite perennials!

2.20.17 Update: Although one of my favorites, I'm very bummed to report that I had to take Lobelia cardinalis out of my garden, as it is high maintenance, due to it's high moisture requirement. We experience long periods of drought in July and August, and Lobelia cardinalis requires daily watering during drought. I prefer water wise gardening techniques, so my Lobelia cardinalis was sent to new homes. It really was stunning in my mass planting. I really hated to see it go....😪😪

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Posted by jmorth (central Illinois) on Nov 19, 2011 8:25 PM

Stem has milky sap. Flowers form dense spike at top of plant.
Habitat - Wet ground along edges of streams, spring branches, low, wet woods, and ditches. Wildflower in the Midwest.
Indians used as an ingredient in love potions (so was blue lobelia). Indians also crushed and dried plant to throw it to the winds, supposed to ward off approaching storms...

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Posted by daylily (Ohio - Zone 6a) on Jan 19, 2013 8:12 PM

Although we might think of Cardinal Flower as a garden perennial, it can also be grown submersed in a freshwater aquarium. A friend just gave me several small starts to put in my 15 gallon planted tank. When they grow larger, I will be sure to post a photo. In my friend's tank, they were lush, full and quite beautiful.

(edited to say that I added two photos of this plant growing completely submersed in my planted aquariums.)

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Plant Events from our members
piksihk On July 1, 2014 Plant Ended (Removed, Died, Discarded, etc)
Catmint20906 On July 27, 2015 Bloomed
jg0613 On September 15, 2015 Bloomed
Date approx. One of the plants from Mich Bulb got 2 single blooms. The other 2 have grown slowly and are surviving but neither has bloomed
jg0613 On July 15, 2015 Obtained plant
One plant obtained, ordered from Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek. Planted in ground in backyard, N fenced section in shady bed N of detached garage.
jg0613 On May 15, 2015 Obtained plant
2 plants obtained after ordering fromMichigan bulb. Both planted in ground in backyard, N fenced section in shady bed just N of detached garage. Date aoprox
MunchkinsMom On June 5, 2016 Miscellaneous Event
20" tall, added a branch, and has one bloom coming on.
MunchkinsMom On April 2, 2016 Transplanted
Dogwood eBay, 2 1/2" pot, about 3" tall
MunchkinsMom On November 5, 2015 Obtained plant
dogwooderitternet eBay
MissMew On July 26, 2017 Obtained plant
Plants from Suzanne (Michael)
christine2 On May 25, 2020 Obtained plant
christine2 On May 12, 2018 Obtained plant
BR 3
lovesblooms On March 1, 2020 Seeds sown
winter sow
dnrevel On January 2, 2021 Obtained plant
Winter Sowed on 1-2-2021. New seed from DnD Seed exchange.
» Post your own event for this plant

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