Plant Sale Profile: Lobelia cardinalis

fblobeliaLobelia cardinalis, commonly called Cardinal Flower was the Virginia Native Plant Society’s Wildflower of the Year in 1991.  This is one of the showiest of the red blooming native plants in Virginia, blooming from July to October.  It is found throughout the state, including the entire piedmont.

Lobelia cardinalis is found in floodplain forests, alluvial swamps, seepage swamps, maritime swamps, tidal swamps, tidal freshwater and oligohaline marshes, wet meadows, ditches, and low roadsides.  It not only grows in cool riparian habitats it is also a beautiful plant in garden beds.  According to the Virginia Flora this species gets up to 25 dm tall (8 feet).  In my gardens it has grown to about 3 feet tall but that may be because it didn’t get enough moisture.

This plant loves full sun but tolerates light shade.  It does want damp to wet conditions.  Adding organic matters such as compost will help the plant retain moisture.  If Lobelia cardinalis gets too dried out, it will be short lived so be sure to water it during times of drought.

In fall remove any leaves that may fall onto this plant.  The basal leaves of this plant do not like to be covered (slip some compost under the leaves).  It attracts hummingbirds, swallowtail butterflies and some large bumblebees.  More information about this wonderful native plant can be found at