Cardinal Flower Info About Growing And Caring For Cardinal Flowers
The following are some interesting facts about the Lobelia cardinals:
Lobelia cardinals grow up to 3 feet tall. They have beautiful red flowers with purple centers and yellow petals. Their leaves are long and narrow, almost like a fan or umbrella shape. There are several varieties of lobelia cardinalis, but they all look similar.
The most common variety is called “white” because it looks white when young.
They are native to the Mediterranean region, from southern Italy through Spain and Portugal to Morocco. They were introduced into North America in the early 1900’s where they quickly spread throughout the United States and Canada. They have since become established in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Cardinal flowers are edible and tasty. They taste similar to strawberries but sweeter due to their high sugar content (about 50% more than regular strawberries). You can eat them raw, cooked or even frozen. They are used in salads, sandwiches and desserts.
Cardinal flowers make lovely houseplants. Plant them in containers and watch how happy they will be! They do best if planted in full sun but they tolerate partial shade as well. Keep your plant away from strong light sources such as fluorescent lights, heat lamps and fluorescent tubes because these may cause leaf burn or death of the plant.
The ideal temperature range for Lobelia cardinalis is between 60 and 80 degrees F (16 to 27 degrees C).
The plant will grow quite a bit the first year and may even bloom. After that, it will probably not get much taller and may even get a little shorter. Pinch off the growing tip of your plant in the spring to promote side shoots and branching. This will help prevent your plant from getting leggy.
Give your plant a pH balanced water (neither too acidic or alkaline) and feed it once a month during the growing season with a liquid houseplant fertilizer. Do not let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Take a tip from Mother Nature: Lobelias like wet feet! If you live in a humid climate, place a saucer under the pot to keep the roots from getting water logged.
Propagating lobelias is very easy. Take a tip from Mother Nature: Lobelias are easily propagated by division, layering or seeds. Division is simple: Grab a Lobelia at the base and just pull it apart. Each piece will form a new plant.
Layering is also easy. Find a stem that arches over and just place a small pot of soil under it. When the stem touches the soil, it will root. If you don’t want to fuss with pots, just place the bottom of the stem (where it touches the soil) into water. If it sinks it can’t live on its own; if it floats it can. Seeds seem difficult to extract because they are so small, but that is all part of the fun!
You will need to keep your plants warm in order to get them to bloom. Keep them at temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees F (18 and 29 degrees C). Give them lots of light (a windowsill will do). Water your plants when the soil is dry about an inch below the surface.
Divisions, layering and seedlings will take a few months before they are big enough to bloom.
Lobelia cardinalis facts: Cardinal flower is a native perennial wildflower in marshes, swamps and wet woods. It is a North American species but it has been introduced into Britain and parts of Europe where it has become an invasive weed. The flowers are red and are borne on spikes above the leaves. Each flower is a tube with four petals that are bent back.
The petals point forward in the direction of travel when they are blown by the wind. Each petal has a tiny black dot or umbo in the center that looks like a bird’s eye. This is where the flower gets its name. (Cardinal means “red” and “bird” in Latin).
This flower’s common name is Lobelia, which comes from the Latin word lobelius, which means “lobular,” referring to the lobes or lips of the seed pods. The scientific name is Lobelia cardinalis, which means “Lobelia with red flowers.”
Other interesting facts about this plant:
North American Indians used the cardinal flower to treat toothaches. The Cherokee made a tea from the roots to treat heart trouble and cancer. The Creek chewed the leaves for headaches.
Lobelias contain alkaloids, mostly lobeline. The amount of lobeline is related to whether the plant is a wild or cultivated variety. Blue or purple varieties have more alkaloid than red varieties which may contain none at all. The chemical composition of this plant makes it useful as an insecticide, but also toxic to humans and other animals.
The genus Lobelia gets its name from Matthias de l’Obel (1538-1616), a Flemish doctor and botanist. De l’Obel was known for his controversial views on the plant and animal kingdom. He believed the existence of spontaneous generation, the idea that life can arise from non-living material, which most scientists rejected at that time.
The species name, cardinalis, refers to the red color of the flowers.
Sources & references used in this article:
Precooling, planting depth, and shade affect cut flower quality and perennialization of field-grown spring bulbs by TJ Cavins, JM Dole – HortScience, 2002 – journals.ashs.org
Morphological and physiological responses of nine ornamental species to saline irrigation water by S Wu, Y Sun, G Niu – HortScience, 2016 – journals.ashs.org
The dynamics of planted and colonising species on a green roof over six growing seasons 2001–2006: influence of substrate depth by N Dunnett, A Nagase, A Hallam – Urban Ecosystems, 2008 – Springer