Cardinal Flower

May 29th, 2020

Lobelia cardinalis

The Lobelia cardinalis, commonly known as the cardinal flower, thrives in the Chattanooga area. It is best to plant them in the spring or fall. The easiest way to grow cardinal flowers from seed is to just allow the flowers to develop seeds in the fall and then drop them around the plant. 

physical description

This plant has a bright red color, named after the color of a Roman Catholic cardinal’s robe.  They generally bloom in the summer (and sometimes into the fall) and generally grow to be about 3-4 feet tall. These are short-lived perennial plants that tend to live for 3-4 years. The plants readily reseed themselves giving them the appearance of having a longer life.  


The cardinal flower does well in the USDA plant hardiness zones 1-10. They can be found as far north as Canada and as far south as Colombia. It prefers wet soil, often growing along streams and ponds in nature. They do not grow well in mulch. These flowers need to be separated by 1 or 2 inches when planting to allow for optimal growth. They will grow best with some morning sun and afternoon shade. They need to be watered one or twice a week in the absence of rain. A layer of mulch around the soil, about 2-3 inches, will help hold in moisture.



They do not attract many insects as it is difficult for them to navigate the trumpet like shape of the flower, but this plant is great for attracting hummingbirds that love the nectar provided by these flowers.

interesting information

Native Americans historically used the roots of the cardinal flower to make a tea for stomachache, syphilis, typhoid, worms, and love potions. However, this practice has since ended due to the plant's toxic properties.

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Planting native helps restore the natural habitat required for beautiful birds, butterflies and other insects to thrive. Plus, native plants are supposed to be here, so they're often more tolerant of neglect, poor soil, and draught.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: native plants
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