General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Water Preferences: Wet
Wet Mesic
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
Uses: Water gardens
Cut Flower
Will Naturalize
Wildlife Attractant: Bees
Butterflies
Hummingbirds
Resistances: Deer Resistant
Rabbit Resistant
Toxicity: Leaves are poisonous
Other: All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Propagation: Seeds: Stratify seeds: May need cold moist treatment, although winter sowing in very early spring regardless of temperature is known to work
Days to germinate: 14 to 120
Depth to plant seed: Surface sow and press into soil
Suitable for wintersowing
Can handle transplanting
Propagation: Other methods: Division
Pollinators: Moths and Butterflies
Birds
Bumblebees
Containers: Suitable in 3 gallon or larger
Needs excellent drainage in pots
Awards and Recognitions: RHS AGM

Image
Common names
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Red Lobelia
Botanical names
  • Accepted: Lobelia cardinalis
  • Synonym: Lobelia fulgens
  • Synonym: Lobelia splendens
  • Synonym: Lobelia cardinalis subsp. cardinalis
  • Synonym: Lobelia cardinalis subsp. graminea
  • Synonym: Lobelia cardinalis subsp. cardinalis var. cardinalis
  • Synonym: Lobelia cardinalis subsp. cardinalis var. meridionalis

Photo Gallery
Location: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, Virginia, US
Date: 2020-08-21
Location: IL
Date: 2010-07-30
My cardinal flowers do very well in this location with other bogg
Location: Beautiful Tennessee, Cade's Cove, Smokey Mountains
Date: 2018-08-25
Location: Northeastern, Texas
Date: 2019-09-18
Uploaded by SongofJoy
Location: Jacksonville, TX
Date: Aug 17, 2008 7:36 PM
Location: Cincinnati, Oh
Date: August 2009
Attracts hummingbirds
Location: MOBOT, St Louis
Date: 2011-08-09
Location: central Illinois
Date: 8-19-12
#pollination
Location: Canton, OH
Location: Brownstown PA 17508
Date: 2020-07-20
Location: Cincinnati, Oh
Date: August 2009
Feeding at night
Location: Brownstown PA 17508
Date: 2018-08-15
Location: Northeastern, Texas
Date: 2019-09-29
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Date: 2023-06-15
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Date: 2019-06-30
Location: Medina, TN
Date: August 2014
Lobelia cardinalis in full bloom.
Location: Aberdeen, NC (S. Sycamore street)
Date: September 3, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: My garden in Gent, Belgium
Date: 2010-08-03

Date: 2018-08-11
Location: Granite Falls, WA
Date: 2019-08-17
Location: Northeastern, Texas
Date: 2019-10-26

Photo Courtesy of Prairie Nursery. Used with Permission
  • Uploaded by Joy
Location: Mentor on the Lake
Date: 2018-09-13

Thanks to AZGARDENS for permission to use this photo! https://azg
Location: freshwater planted aquarium
Date: 2013-10-27
another plant of Lobelia Cardinalis, grown completely submersed i
Location: my garden in Dawsonville, GA (zone 7b north Geogia mountains)
Date: 2022-06-12
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2012-08-20
Location: central Illinois
Date: August 2009
Location: My Northeastern Indiana Gardens - Zone 5b
Date: 2014-07-26
Location: Aberdeen, NC (Lake park east)
Date: September 12, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: central Illinois
Date: 8-19-12
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2011-08-21
Location: western Oregon
Date: 2015-12-27
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2009-08-22

Date: 2015-07-10

 Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds. Used with permission.
  • Uploaded by Joy
Location: Northeastern, Texas
Date: 2019-09-04
Location: Central Kansas (Zone 6b)
Date: 2016-06-15
Location: Central Kansas (Zone 6b)
Date: 2016-06-15
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Date: Auguust 2008
There is no brighter red than lobelia cardinalis in sunlight

Courtesy Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek
  • Uploaded by vic
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2010-08-06
Location: Dearborn Heights, MI
Date: 2011-08-25
My yard, zone 6
Location: Brownstown PA 17508
Date: 2020-07-20
Location: my garden in Dawsonville, GA (zone 7b north Geogia mountains)
Date: 2022-06-29
Location: Tennessee
photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.sunlightgardens.com
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2010-09-18
in garden
Location: Maryland
Date: 2015-08-02
Location: Carter Caves Park, Olive Hill, Kentucky
Date: 2017-09-17
Location: my garden 
Date: 2014-09-30
Location: Norvin Green State Forest Bloomingdale, NJ
Date: 2014-04-26
Plants found at the Northernmost parking area for the Otterhole i

Courtesy Crownsville Nursery
  • Uploaded by vic
Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Date: 2015-08-08
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake park
Date: August 9, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake park
Date: August 9, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: Colorado
Date: 2012-09-17
Location: Colorado
Date: 2012-09-17
Cardinal flower in Colorado
Uploaded by SongofJoy
Location: Jacksonville, TX
Date: Aug 17, 2008 7:36 PM
Location: Central Kansas (Zone 6b)
Date: 2016-06-15
Location: IL
Date: 2009-08-11
Location: All pictures taken in/on my gardens/greenhouse/property
Date: 2020-03-28

photo credit: H. Zell
Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania
Date: 2013-08-12
plant in bloom in wet garden area
Location: Hawk Mountain Raptor Sanctuary in southeast PA
Date: 2015-08-27
plants in the Natural Garden in wet area
Location: Tuttle Marsh Wild Life Area, Oscoda, MI
Date: 2019-09-04
Location: Dearborn Heights, MI
Date: 2011-08-25
My yard, zone 6
Location: Tennessee
a color variety -- photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.sunlig

Photo courtesy of Select Seeds
Location: Maryland
Date: 2015-09-13
Location: central Illinois
Date: 2009-08-22
ditch

Image Courtesy of Bloomin Designs Nursery Used with Permission
  • Uploaded by vic
Location: Maryland
Date: 2014-08-13
Location: Lititz Pennsylvania
Date: 2017-07-25
In a water run off area

Photo courtesy of: Tom Potterfield
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake park
Date: August 9, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: Lucketts, Loudoun County, Virginia
Date: 2015-08-07

Courtesy Crownsville Nursery
  • Uploaded by vic

Courtesy Crownsville Nursery
  • Uploaded by vic
Uploaded by Anderwood
Location: Central Kansas (Zone 6b)
Date: 2016-06-20

photo credit: H. Zell
Location: central Illinois
Date: 8-21-11

Photo Courtesy of Lazy S'S Farm Nursery.
  • Uploaded by Joy
Location: Tuttle Marsh Wild Life Area, Oscoda, MI
Date: 2019-09-04
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, MI
Date: 2010-08-30
Location: Maryland
Date: 2014-08-25
Location: Tennessee
'colored variety #3' -- photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.s
Location: Tennessee
a color variety -- photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.sunlig
Location: Tennessee
a color variety -- photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.sunlig
Location: Tennessee
color variety -- photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.sunlight
Location: Tennessee
a color variety - photo courtesy of Sunlight Gardens, www.sunligh
Location: NJ
Date: 2012-07-21
Location: Vander Veer Botanical Gardens - Davenport, Iowa
Date: 7-3-11
Location: freshwater planted aquarium
Date: 2014-03-16
Lobelia Cardinalis, lower right corner with rounded leaves, grown
Location: Pembroke, GA
Date: 2014-01-23
Photo courtesy of Santa Rosa Gardens. Used with permission.
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake park
Date: August 9, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: Aberdeen, NC Pages Lake park
Date: August 9, 2022
Cardinal flower #298; RAB 1005, 178-6-1; AG page 305, 56-1-1; LHB
Location: Colorado
Date: August 2012
Hairy stem and leaves
This plant is tagged in:
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Comments:
  • Posted by kqcrna (Valencia, Pa - Zone 6a) on Sep 29, 2011 7:44 AM concerning plant:
    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.
  • Posted by ILPARW (southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Feb 20, 2018 3:30 PM concerning plant:
    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.
  • Posted by mmolyson (Lilburn, GA - Zone 7b) on Oct 11, 2020 12:11 PM concerning plant:
    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.
  • Posted by Catmint20906 (PNW WA half hour south of Olympia - Zone 8a) on Aug 24, 2014 6:09 AM concerning plant:
    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.
  • Posted by daylily (Ohio - Zone 6a) on Jan 19, 2013 8:12 PM concerning plant:
    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.)
  • Posted by bloominholes2fill (Canton, OH - Zone 6a) on May 18, 2016 5:38 PM concerning plant:
    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....??
  • Posted by jmorth (central Illinois) on Nov 19, 2011 8:25 PM concerning plant:
    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...
  • Posted by dnrevel (Michigan - Zone 6a) on Dec 11, 2022 11:36 PM concerning plant:
    This is a wildflower native found in moist soils, wet open woods, streambanks, swamps and marshy areas. From U of Wisc: "Under the right conditions cardinal flower will readily self seed. Use cardinal flower in borders, rain gardens, and native gardens, especially on the edges of streams or ponds. They will naturalize in moist meadows and can be grown in a shallow water garden or in containers. The deep pure red flowers may be difficult to combine with other reds but it mixes well with many other moisture-loving plants that bloom in other colors."

    Opinions vary on mulch or no mulch. NOTES: Prefers rich, medium to wet soil in full sun to part shade. morning sun. Has shallow roots and is a short-lived perennial as it is listed as a pioneer wildflower. Some say to help perpetuate, let the seeds germinate on bare ground. Space out. From NC Extension: Root mulch might help cold winter climates to protect the root system and to prevent root heaving. Plant can be grown in a 1 gallon or larger container using rich, moist potting soil.

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
christine2 On June 3, 2023 Obtained plant
2023 Native plant sale (2)
christine2 On May 25, 2020 Obtained plant
0V2
christine2 On May 12, 2018 Obtained plant
BR 3
lovesblooms On March 1, 2020 Seeds sown
winter sow
antsinmypants On February 28, 2023 Seeds sown
WS Several.
dnrevel On June 15, 2023 Potted up
Transferred seedlings to Earth boxes to grow on to larger size while on vacation.
dnrevel On March 30, 2023 Seeds germinated
Sprouts spotted in winter sowing tote. It will be a low of 18 degrees tonight (!) yet these seeds and sprouts are tough and are protected inside the WS tote.
dnrevel On January 31, 2023 Seeds sown
Planted from a 2021 and 2020 seed packet, seed swaps. Recommend to refrigerate seed to store. Winter sown in Dixie cups, WS tote.
dnrevel On August 17, 2022 Bloomed
Caught sight of this plant's lovely August blazing blooms as we were leaving on vacation. They were they when we returned. Plant gets sun but is also in an area where it gets more moisture and attention, near Helenium (also needs more water) and is near our second rain barrel.
Location, location, location!
dnrevel On January 2, 2021 Obtained plant
Winter Sowed on 1-2-2021. New seed from DnD Seed exchange.
SuperHappyCamper On August 23, 2023 Obtained plant
Purchased from Pike's Nursery.
WebTucker On August 9, 2022 Bloomed
foru2c On February 26, 2023 Seeds sown
WS jug #16
pinetastic On July 31, 2023 Bloomed
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Discussion Threads about this plant
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
cardinal flower in aquarium by Skyekitty Jan 17, 2022 8:46 AM 1

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