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Lobelia cardinalis is often confused with:
Salvia greggii Form of 'wild thing'
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Hibiscus moscheutos Native habitat
Helianthus angustifolius Narrow Leaf Sunflower
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Symphyotrichum novae-angliae 'Purple Dome'
Lobelia cardinalis has some common insect problems:
Slugs & Snails on Ornamental Plants

Lobelia Lobelia cardinalis

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Lobelia:

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 in the Campanulaceae (bellflower) family that may grow 4 to 5 feet tall. The common name is in reference to the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.

It is easily grown in rich, medium to wet soil in full sun to part shade. The soil should never be allowed to dry out, and It will tolerate brief flooding. Although it will tolerate full sun in northern climates, it appreciates partial 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.  If desired, this plant can be grown in a 1 gallon or larger container using rich, moist potting soil.   

The shiny leaves are alternate with a toothed margin and their rhizomes overwinter with small rosettes of leaves. 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. Propagate this plant either by seed or by separating the rosettes from the parent plant in the spring. 

A number of hybrid cultivars of the Cardinal flower have been produced; the most popular is 'Queen Victoria' with blood-red flowers and bronze foliage.

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 the soil is kept uniformly moist.  It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies making it a welcome addition to a pollinator garden.

This plant was selected as the 1982, 1983 and 2001 NC Wildflower of the Year, a program managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden with some financial support from the Garden Club of North Carolina.

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.

 

More information on Lobelia.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Pink Flame'
    Bright pink flowers
  • 'Pink Flamingo'
    Soft pink flowers
  • 'Queen Victoria'
    Hybrid cultivar; Blood-red flowers and bronze foliage
'Pink Flame', 'Pink Flamingo', 'Queen Victoria'
Tags:
#hummingbirds#poisonous#water garden#rain garden#perennials#wildlife plant#low maintenance#riparian#fall interest#wetlands#fire medium flammability#NC native#native garden#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#food source fall#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#wet soils tolerant#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-summer#nectar plant late summer#nectar plant early fall#nectar plant mid-fall#HS302#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#Audubon#stormwater demo garden orange co#NC Wildflower of the Year#poisonous leaves
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Pink Flame'
    Bright pink flowers
  • 'Pink Flamingo'
    Soft pink flowers
  • 'Queen Victoria'
    Hybrid cultivar; Blood-red flowers and bronze foliage
'Pink Flame', 'Pink Flamingo', 'Queen Victoria'
Tags:
#hummingbirds#poisonous#water garden#rain garden#perennials#wildlife plant#low maintenance#riparian#fall interest#wetlands#fire medium flammability#NC native#native garden#pollinator plant#native wildflower#wildflower garden#food source fall#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#wet soils tolerant#food source hard mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-summer#nectar plant late summer#nectar plant early fall#nectar plant mid-fall#HS302#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for horses#Audubon#stormwater demo garden orange co#NC Wildflower of the Year#poisonous leaves
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Lobelia
    Species:
    cardinalis
    Family:
    Campanulaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern United States
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Its flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.
    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
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    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
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Description:
    Displays from August to November
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Erect, terminal spikes (racemes) of large, cardinal red flowers. Each flower is tubular 2 lipped 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 from July to October.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Finely-toothed, lance-shaped, pointed on both ends, shiny 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
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    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, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilation of pupils, convulsions, and coma, abdominal pain, heart rhythm disturbances.
    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