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~ The Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis ~

The Cardinal Flower is a very hardy (to zone 3), if shorty-lived, native perennial. Chief attributes are a columnar habit requiring no staking, late summer/fall blooming when most other perennials show only greenery, primary red blooms that are wildly attractive to hummingbirds, shade-tolerance and the ability to self-seed if the conditions are favourable. Watch goldfinches deftly perch on the stem and eat the tiny seeds from the ripe pods.

There exist seed strains sold under names such as Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Series Mixed.' These result from crosses between L. cardinalis. L. siphilitica and L. fulgens and their hardiness may vary between individuals. Treat them as annuals or biennals; disappointment is less likely. In their favour, the blooms are quite a bit larger than the L. cardinalis species form, grow easily and come in an array of very bold colours in the range of hot pink, rich fuschia purple and firetruck red.

Another variety features reddish-foliage: 'Queen Victoria' is frequently seen in the nursery trade, but is noticeably less vigorous and hardy than the species; furthermore, visually, the flower colour doesn't appear to glow as much against the dull burgundy setting.

The gardener should keep in mind that the Cardinal Flowers likes to grow streamside and requires much moisture. Don't allow to dry, water generously!

Click to enlarge

A planting at the Montreal Botanical Garden

Pond side

Colors of the 'Fan Series' in a woodland setting

Large-flowered hybrid

Cardinal Flower Suppliers

Thompson and Mosrgan - Source for 'Fan Series Mixed.'
Thompson and Morgan - Source for the 'Queen Victoria' strain.

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