Lobelia cardinalis, commonly called cardinal flower is a Missouri native perennial which typically grows in moist locations along streams, sloughs, springs, swamps and in low wooded areas. A clump-forming perennial which features erect, terminal spikes (racemes) of large, cardinal red flowers on unbranched, alternate-leafed stalks rising typically to a height of 2-3' (infrequently to 4'). Tubular flowers are 2-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. Finely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 4" long). Late summer bloom period. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Easily grown in rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Needs constant moisture. Tolerates brief flooding. Soils should never be allowed to dry out. Tolerates full sun in northern climates, but appreciates part afternoon shade in hot summer climates of the lower Midwest and South. Hardy in zones 3-9.
Growing Instructions for the Cardinal Flower
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. 1. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. 2. Put the seeds in a ziplock bag. 3. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 2 months. 4. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Use a sterile seed starter mix, if available. It prevents soil fungi from damaging the seeds and the seedlings. If not available, then make a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. 5. Put the soil in a pot. 6. Sow the seeds on the soil. 7. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. 8. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.