Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a stunning, herbaceous perennial native to North America. It is commonly known for its striking bright-red flowers that bloom from mid-summer to early fall. The cardinal flower belongs to the Lobeliaceae family and is sometimes referred to as the red lobelia. The cardinal flower typically grows to be around 2-4 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. The best time to plant cardinal flowers is in the spring or early summer, and they should be planted about 12 inches apart.
Leaves and Flowers
The Cardinal flower has a slender stem that is often reddish or purple. Its lance-shaped leaves are arranged in a basal rosette and exhibit a rich green color, providing a striking backdrop to the vibrant blossoms. The leaves often have serrated edges, adding a touch of intricacy to their appearance. Their smooth texture and glossy surface create an alluring interplay of light, contributing to the plant’s visual appeal even when it’s not blooming.
The flowers, named for their resemblance to the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals, are a sight to behold. The cardinal flower’s tubular blossoms emerge like a blaze of fiery brilliance against the green backdrop. While the red hue is the most common and striking, variations of pink and rare shades of white can also be found. The unique tubular shape of the flowers provides a natural perch for hummingbirds, who are drawn to the cardinal flower’s abundant nectar.
Preferred Growing Conditions
Cardinal flowers flourish in moist to wet soil, making them an excellent choice for water gardens, boggy areas, or rain gardens. They can also thrive in well-draining soil if provided with consistent moisture. Planting them in partial shade to full sun is ideal, striking a balance between sunlight exposure and moisture retention. Some afternoon shade can prevent stress in regions with intense heat and help prolong the bloom period.
Pruning and deadheading spent blooms can extend the flowering period and encourage the cardinal flower to produce more blossoms. Removing faded flowers also prevents the plant from diverting energy toward seed production. The cardinal flower is a prime target for pests such as aphids, spider mites, or slugs. Therefore, watch for signs of pests or diseases and promptly address any issues to ensure the plant’s overall health.