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Lobelia cardinalis

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
low-BEE-lee-ah kar-dih-NAL-iss
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Cardinal Flower is a herbaceous perennial that may grow 4 to 5 feet tall. The leaves are alternate with a toothed margin. Brilliant red blooms first mature in late summer and continue into mid-fall. The showy flowers begin opening at the bottom of a terminal flower spike and continue to the top.

A number of hybrid cultivars of Cardinal flowers have been produced; the most popular is 'Queen Victoria' with blood-red flowers and bronze foliage. Grow in a 1 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 gardens. It 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.

Fire Risk: This plant has a medium flammability rating. 

Seasons of Interest: 

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

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

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.

More information on Lobelia.

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Queen Victoria'
    Hybrid cultivar; Blood-red flowers and bronze foliage
Tags:
#hummingbirds#butterflies#poisonous#water garden#rain garden#perennial#wildlife plant#wildflowers#showy#low maintenance#riparian#wetlands#fire#medium flammability#NC native#native garden#native wildflower#hummingbird
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Queen Victoria'
    Hybrid cultivar; Blood-red flowers and bronze foliage
Tags:
#hummingbirds#butterflies#poisonous#water garden#rain garden#perennial#wildlife plant#wildflowers#showy#low maintenance#riparian#wetlands#fire#medium flammability#NC native#native garden#native wildflower#hummingbird
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Lobelia
    Species:
    cardinalis
    Family:
    Campanulaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Leaf Cutting
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern United States
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Its flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Water Plant
    Wildflower
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    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. Although not common, white and rose-colored varieties also exist. Blooms late summer to fall.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Description:
    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')
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Rabbits
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    TOXIC ONLY IF LARGE QUANTITIES EATEN. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilation of pupils, convulsions, and coma.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Alkaloids lobelamine, lobeline, and others, plus a volatile oil
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice
    Seeds
    Stems