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Native Cardinal Flower and Other Lobelias

Updated on October 19, 2014
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Yvonne writes about and photographs the flora and fauna of Louisiana, sharing knowledge she learned through study and personal experience.

Red and Blue Perennial Native Lobelias Love Wet Feet

Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) and the other members of the Lobelia family (most of which are some shade of blue) love moisture. These native perennial wildflowers are at home in ditches and beside waterways, but also make lovely additions to moist areas in the garden. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to all of the members of the Lobelia family. The Cardinal Flower is one of the more showy native plants.

Historically, all members of the Lobelia species have been used in Native American herbal medicine, but because the plants can be toxic or even deadly, modern herbalists discourage their use.

Cardinal Flower - Lobelia cardinalis

Description and Growing Conditions

Both the common name (cardinal) and botanical name (cardinalis) of this perennial plant with clusters of bright red flowers refer to the fact that 'cardinalis' means scarlet, which is the color of cardinals' robes. In Louisiana this lovely flower blooms on stalks up to 5 feet tall in wet areas from July through October.

Cardinal flower grows best in moist soil in filtered light or part shade. The more sun it gets, the more water it needs.


In fall, the seed capsules, containing hundreds of dust-like seeds turn brown. The seed capsules can be collected (before they break open is best) and the tiny seeds can be sprinkled in pots of good soil then pressed into the soil. If they are kept moist, the tiny plants will appear in a couple of weeks and in spring, the plants will be large enough to put out into the garden. They will bloom the first year.

Other methods of propagation are stem cuttings, root division, and layering.

Hummingbirds by the Pond Poster on Zazzle


Hummingbirds by the Pond by naturegirl7 can be purchased on

Blue Lobelias - Great Blue Lobelia (L. siphilitica) and Pale Lobelia (L. appendiculata)

Most members of the Lobelia family have blue flowers and all Lobelias are a favorite of hummingbirds and other pollinators. Great Blue Lobelia (L. siphilitica) was named so because it was once thought to be a cure for Syphilis.

Description and Growing Conditions

Great Blue Lobelia

Tall spikes (up to 3 feet) of bright blue flowers in fall.

Great Blue Lobelia prefers light shade and moist soil.

Propagate by seed, by offsets and by stem cuttings.

Pale Lobelia

Pale Lobelia

L. appendiculata

Description & Growing Conditions

This beautiful native perennial has tall spikes of delicate bluish white flowers in late spring (April to June) in wet fields, prairie and pinelands. Beautiful in large groups with mixed wildflowers or in a natural setting.

It can be grown in sunny rain gardens or low, damp parts of the yard.


Like the other blue lobelias, Pale Lobelia can be propagated in the same ways as Cardinal Flower.

Dragonfly on Pale Lobelia Poster on Zazzle


Dragonfly on Pale Lobelia by naturegirl7 can be purchased on

Cardinal Flower Poll

Which Lobelia do you prefer?

See results

Blue Lobelia

Blue Lobelia
Blue Lobelia

Weeds of the South Book

Weeds of the South (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book) (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)
Weeds of the South (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book) (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)

Another great book from Wormsloe Foundation featuring "weeds" of the south. One man's weeds are another man's wildflowers. You'll find many beautiful wildflowers in this colorful and informative book.


Lobelia cardinalis Poster on Zazzle


Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis by naturegirl7

© 2009 Yvonne L. B.

Let's hear it for Cardinal Flower and the Other Lobelias.

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    • AcornOakForest profile image

      Monica Lobenstein 5 years ago from Western Wisconsin

      Beautiful flowers! And I learned some new things about Cardinal Flowers too. Thanks

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 6 years ago

      Beautiful flower and lens. Blessed! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautiful lens! Enjoyed it very much!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      What a beautifully lovely selection of flowers!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      You've been blessed by a Squid Angel, and this lens was included in Another Day of One Hundred Squid Angel Blessings.

    • Adrienne Jenkins profile image

      Adrienne Jenkins 8 years ago

      Love the red cardinalis.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 8 years ago


    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Love the pictures!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Nice lens, I thought it was pretty insightful so I decided to give you 5 stars, hey, I have a page that’s pretty similar to yours, maybe you can check it out when you have time: Formal Koi Pond

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago


    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      Love that cardinal flower, never seen it before.

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 8 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Fantastic Lens!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 8 years ago

      Oh! That is what that flower is that is growing in my "natural area". I MUST check out the rest of your wildflower pages.

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      What a beautiful lens! Nice work.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I had never heard of the Cardinal Flower is lovely!