Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grow Lobelia Cardinal Flower

Lobelia commonly called cardinal flower is an orchid-like red wildflower that is native to the woodland areas in North America.

I first discovered this woodland flower while hiking in the valley just bellow the ridge where our home resides. The flower was growing close to the banks of a stream and I noted that it attracted butterflies and the red throat hummingbirds.  I used a spoon to loosen the soil around the stem.  The roots were close to the soil surface and the plant was easy to dig up.  I quickly returned home so that I could transplant the Lobelia cardinal flower to my garden. I planted the cardinal flowers to the back border of my part sun to shade garden.  The following year I had many cardinal flowers blooming in my garden.  The one plant self seeded and I also planted additional seeds in spring.

Cardinal flower looks good growing in the back border of your garden as the stems can reach the height of 3 to 4 feet.  You can also grow it with assorted wildflowers in a woodland setting.  Flowers bloom in late summer and will continue to bloom well into autumn or until the end of season frost.
Cardinal flower growing along stream: Wikipedia commons

Where to Grow
Grow cardinal flower in zones 3 to 8.  Choose a garden site that has sun to part shade.  Also select an area where the soil is evenly moist but not wet. 
When to Plant
Plant the seeds outside in May or June when the ground warms to 74 degrees.

Get the garden site ready for planting. Remove the sod, weeds and all debris.  Loosen the soil to one foot.  Break up the clumps of soil so that soil is fine.

Planting Seed in Masses: 
Mix the seeds with compost or manure.  Place the compost in a wheelbarrow and add water.  The compost should be moist, not wet.  Mix the seeds into the compost.   Add other wildflower seeds to the compost if you are planting a prairie garden.

Scoop up the compost and place it on the soil.  Rake the compost into the fine soil. Cover the seeds with soil to the depth of a half inch.

Planting Seeds for Small Gardens:
Use the eraser end of a pencil to dig holes in the soil that are a half inch deep.  Space the seeds a foot apart.  Set the seed in the center of the hole and cover the hole with the soil.

Care for Lobelia Cardinal Flowers:
Apply a thin layer of grass clippings or mulch around the plant stems.  This organic mulch will aid in retaining moisture and will deter weed growth. Water the cardinal flower every morning with a dripline irrigation or with a soaker hose.

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.  Water the cardinal flowers twice a day in the morning and late afternoon when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. Keeping the soil evenly moist will ensure that your flowers are healthy. 
  • Do not allow the ground to dry out. 
  • When seeds start to sprout, and are three to four inches in height you can transplant them by spacing eighteen inches apart, or leave them to grow in masses.
  • Refrain from weeding during growing season, as you may remove new growth.
  • Companion plants that I like grown with the cardinal flower: Blue Lobelia and Golden Ragwort.  I like the contrast of the colors blue, yellow and red. 

Introduction Image Credit by US Fish and Wildlife Services

    2 comments: said...

    I see this growing wild in New Hampshire. Stunning. It seems to like growing in the edge of ponds.

    Sgolis said...

    My cardinal flower did not grow this year. I am certain it was due to the extreme heat and drought. Normally if grows well along the banks of my small pond. The cardinal flower is beautiful. I hope it returns next summer.