Cardinal Flower. A beautiful red flower that I was first introduced to many years ago along the country roads and ditches of Illinois. Driving along on a sunny day in late spring or summer and you can see the bright red of the blooms atop the grass and other plants in the ditches. It is a native plant that is important for the hummingbirds and other nectar loving butterflies and insects.
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) is a native plant for zones 2-7 in the U.S. In perfect conditions it can grow upwards of 6′ but, in my many years of gardening, I have seen it about 3′ tall (on the average). The red tubular flowers bloom from May through October and are a favorite among the hummingbirds. What I find interesting about the Cardinal flower is that the bloom is about 8″ tall and it starts blooming from the bottom up which is one reason for the long blooming time.
I found this beauty last summer walking along the James River here in Richmond VA. The plants were about 3-4′ tall and were mixed in with grass and native plants along the moist river bank. It loves to have wet feet (or never dry out) and part sun/ part shade area. These are perfect for the moist shadier (still needs sun) area of your garden or close to your rain barrel so you can keep it well watered.
Ifyou find this beauty on a walk and you notice the bottom blooms are brown and dried up, then you could find seeds. Just carefully pluck off some of the seed pods and put them in a baggy until you get home then sprinkle them in your garden, mark, and wait for next year. Please do not dig up the plant or take the whole flower head!
If you have a Cardinal flower already, you can easily propagate them by taking a lower stem, bending down on the soil, cover with soil, and then using a rock or piece of metal shaped in a U to hold down the stem under the dirt to root for a couple months. I love propagating this way and I save wire/metal hangers just for this purpose.
There are a cultivars available at garden centers and rarely will you find the native Cardinal flower at your local big box stores. Watch for native plant sales in your area and check with your local botanical centers for plant sales. You can check online; and the least expensive way to start them would be to buy seeds from a reputable online seed company or nursery.
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2015 copyrighted material C Renee Fuller @ the Garden Frog Boutique