Please submit a search term.

Lobelia cardinalis

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Cardinal flower
Herbs, Native Plants, Perennials, Poisonous Plants, Water Garden, Wildflowers

Lobelia cardinalis, commonly called cardinal flower is a native perennial that typically grows in moist locations along streams, sloughs, springs, swamps and in low wooded areas. It is a somewhat short-lived, clump-forming perennial. The flowers are not attractive to cardinals. Although not common, white and rose-colored varieties also exist. 

A number of hybrid cultivars of Cardinal flower have been produced; the most popular is 'Queen Victoria' with blood-red flowers and bronze foliage. Grow in1 gallon or larger container using rich soil, 1-3 in. of water over the crown.

This plant is effective in moist areas of woodland/shade gardens, wet meadows or along streams or ponds. Also water gardens and rain garden. Also adds late summer bloom and height to borders as long as soils are kept uniformly moist.

The common name is in reference to the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:   Late Summer/Fall           Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  Frequentily damaged by deer. Its flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.  

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Snails and slugs may damage the foliage. Foliage contains alkaloids which are very toxic to humans if ingested.

3-5 ft.
Flower Color:
Cardinal red
The Cardinal flower has finely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 4" long). The leaves form on branched, alternate-leaved stalks rising typically to a height of 2-3' (infrequently to 4').
The Cardinal flower features erect, terminal spikes (racemes) of large, cardinal red flowers. Each flower is about 1.5 in. long. A tube of stamens projects upward through a cleft in the corol. The tubular flowers are 2-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. The flowers begin opening at the bottom of a terminal flower spike and continue to the top.
Herbaceous perennial
Cardinal flower is easily grown in rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. It needs constant moisture. It will tolerate brief flooding. Soils should never be allowed to dry out. It will tolerate full sun in northern climates but appreciates part afternoon shade in hot summer climates of the lower Midwest and South. Root mulch should be applied in cold winter climates to protect the root system and to prevent root heaving. Mulch will also help retain soil moisture. It can be found in moist meadows, thickets, swamps, and along banks of streams.
Remove offshoots in late summer, seed, cuttings
Moist soil high in organic matter
Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain
Eastern USA, North Carolina
Poison Part:
All parts
Poison Delivery Mode:
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilation of pupils, convulsions, and coma
Toxic Principle:
Alkaloids lobelamine, lobeline, and others, plus a volatile oil
Found in:
Forest or natural area, in moist woods and fields, edge of streams; landscape, in flower gardens, cultivated herbaceous annuals and perennials
Life Cycle:
Perennial provided fallen leaves are removed from the low growing evergreen rosettes during the winter
riparian, low maintenance, perennial, hummingbirds, facultative-wetlandr, rain garden, butterflies, showy

NCCES plant id: 740

Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis
Vijay Somalinga, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis
Lindsey, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis
ukgardenphoto, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis
Melinda Stuart, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis
Melinda Stuart, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis
BudOhio, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Lobelia cardinalis Lobelia cardinalis bloom detail
Debbie Roos