Friday, April 19, 2013

L is for Lobelia



The blue spires of Cardinal flowers, Lobelia syphilitica first caught my attention last summer in the Lost Horizons Nursery display gardens. 

In the past, I have always shied away from this family of plants because I know they like moist soil and my garden was usually dry, especially in late summer.


But when I saw them franking the pathways in the display garden, I began to wonder if I had been too hasty to dismiss the possibility of growing them in my own garden. 

Despite the drought we had in the later part of the summer, these plants didn't seem to be too stressed. Nor did they look to have been pampered great quantities of water from a hose. 

I began to wonder if maybe, just maybe I might be able to get away with growing them myself.


When I decided to investigate further I was surprised to learn that these beautiful Cardinal Flowers, Lobelia syphilitica were actually native plants.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the better known native, Lobelia cadinalis, which has bright red flowers and can be found growing in marshes, along the banks of streams and in wet, wooded areas. The name 'Cardinal Flower' alludes to the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. Lobelia cadinalis is not a long-lived perennial, but it will self-seed wherever it is happy growing. In a home garden, this native makes a great companions for ferns.

Since insects find it difficult to negotiate its long tubular flowers, Cardinal Flowers depend on butterflies and hummingbirds, which feed on their nectar, for pollination. 


While at the nursery a few other cultivars caught my attention as well. If you have the requisite moist soil and sun/part shade this Lobelia 'Misty Morn' might be a nice option to consider.  Height: 65 cm Spread: 35 cm


Also at Lost Horizons was Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Schadlach'. 


'Fan Schadlach' has amazing bronze foliage, and as a hybrid, it is apparently more forgiving of site and moisture conditions than the red flowering native Lobelia cardinalis


Like most gardeners, I have a limited budget for new plants. It is always tough call: do you only invest in plants that suit your conditions perfectly, or on occasion, do experiment with plants that require growing conditions other than the ones found in your garden?

Generally, I err on the side of caution and only choose plants that I feel confident will be happy where I  place them. 

In this case, I was so taken with the blue flowers I decided to throw caution to the wind and give the blue Cardinal Flower, Lobelia syphilitica a try

Money well spent or ten dollars wasted? Time will tell.

What about you? Do always stick with plants perfectly suited to your growing conditions or do you ever push the envelope?

Have a wonderful weekend gardening!

My garden alphabet so far: 'A' is for Astilbe, 'B' is for ButterflyThree 'C's, 'D' is for DelphiniumThe Letters 'E' and 'F' , 'G' is for Geranium , 'H' is for Hollyhocks, 'I' is for Iris , 'J' is for Jacob's Ladder, I am skipping K for now because I am stumped for a 'K' and now 'L' is for Lobelia.

27 comments:

  1. Jennifer, I love lobelia!
    Only I'm growing annual lobelia - L. erinus.
    It's very bright colorful plant, I sow it every March and plant in containers in my garden.
    I'd like to have some perennial varieties, hardy in our climate. What could you advise?

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  2. Hi Jennifer....I like to buy an experiment plant now and then. My last one was a Lobelia Cardenalis which I bought about two years ago. It's still growing and did have a bloom or two last year. We'll see what happens this year. However, I think even worse than buying the experiment plant that fails, is buying a plant that you think will surely grow, and it dies. This happened a couple of years ago...I bought six Ruby Candle Penstemons and every one of them died...so sad!!

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  3. Take a chance on a beautiful flower - those certainly are beautiful!
    Love your Header photo, too!
    Have a wonderful week-end!
    Lea
    Lea's Menagerie

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  4. I think it's more then worth to give this beauty's a try in your garden. I always do. Maybe sometimes it is wasted money but most of the time they do very well. Last year I planted Alstroemeria's I was warned they should not survey our winters. And they did not indeed. But they gave me a lot of pleasure and beautiful blooms during a long summer season.
    Have a wonderful weekend Jennifer.

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  5. These are lobelia's I have never seen before ~ I only know of the ones usually found in baskets and I love them. My budget is limited as well and I agree that it makes me less likely to take a chance on a plant too. Your new blog photo above is so beautiful :) I adore pansies.

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  6. Oh...this is a wonderful plant, such beautiful blue flowers. Unfortunately I know that they wouldn't like it here as it is much too hot and dry. I do however sometimes push my zonal limits, occassionally to some success.

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  7. The blue lobelia is an absolute gem. I do hope yours grows.

    I've never tried growing it as our garden tends to be dry and sunny but after reading this I'm sorely tempted.

    A lovely post.xxxx

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  8. I have some Cardinal flower - L. cardinalis - the straight species. It is a little fussy, wants a lot of moisture and some sun. However, it has unparalleled color, a clear and intense red. I've grown L. syphilitica as well, and it has mostly disappeared even though it is supposed to be more adaptable than Cardinal flower.

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  9. I grew a red lobelia last year in my pond but it was in too much shade. My attempts at growing l. siphlitica were disastrous but it's my fault - too much shade and not enough water. But I may try again this summer. Your posts always inspire to try again with the plants I've killed. I currently have 2 pots of variegated Jacob's Ladder on my patio. :o)

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  10. I have never had much success with Lobelia - my garden is too full of slugs who seem to enjoy them. Like most gardeners we are attracted to plants regardless of whether they will do well in our gardens but sometimes it pays off and sometimes you just can't resist. That's why we are gardeners our love of plants is sometimes our downfall.

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  11. Try Kangaroo Paws for the "K". I bought two last weekend, so I can't speak to their longivity. I'm like you.......scared to spend $10 a pot on something that might not make it in our zone. I live in Louisiana, Zone 8.

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  12. Love the purple blue spires of this lobelia. I find the red too harsh for my garden, so will have to look for this variety.

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  13. Pretty! I have never tried to grow this flower, but may have to give it a try. I tend to try new things, pushing the envelope a bit. And, I will sometimes even try them more than once - or even more than twice!

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  14. I definitely push with some success...love my native lobelias. They grow in areas that are moist all spring and seem to do fine even in summer with drier conditions as long as they get enough spring moisture.

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  15. I have lobelia 'Ruby Slippers' in regular garden soil, not too damp, not too dry. It is a gorgeous wine purple velvet color. And lobelia cardinalis, the bright red one, does well in another spot -- again I did not worry about wet conditions. They are short lived plants, but in my garden they don't seem too fussy about conditions. I don't have them in dry spots, but they do well in normal garden bed soil.

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  16. Jennifer - these Lobelia are very tempting. I mulch my flower beds but I know they get dry. Would Lobelia survive? I might take a chance and try some. All those different colours!! Wish we gardeners had better luck at the lotteries or the casino - so much I'd like to buy :)

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  17. Blue Lobelia and Cardinal Flower grow wild here, and they are short-lived plants with minds of their own! I just let them seed around and enjoy them wherever they show up.

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  18. I hope it will be money well spent for you! :-)

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  19. Jennifer Lobelia is a fav of mine now will consider Cardinal flower.......

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  20. I have to say I'm a "jumper" when it comes to new plants. I always hope that my enthusiasm will make up for any challenges the plant will face in my garden (most of the time I am wrong) but still, I persist... Showcasing this flower the way you have in your photos has made it irresistible and I'll be looking for it when I visit the nurseries next month :)

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  21. I think you did the right thing in picking the lobelia siphilitica - to me it is the prettiest of the bunch. I've had limited success with all the lobelias I have tried, but I refuse to give up. I won't spend money on them anymore, but I am now trying them from seed. It's more likely to fail but it will be a cheaper failure!

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  22. Just absolutely beautiful Jennifer! Loved them all!

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  23. Hi Jennifer, I 've never seen all these different species of lobelia. The common ones here are groundcovers, very pretty but as you say, needing water, so I never bothered. I think it's worth trying out new possibilities, because plants are like young children, they are not always predictable, and can't read the labels so they don't always know how they are expected to behave!

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  24. In our last house we built a large raised pond in the 'exotic garden' and grew a gorgeous fiery red Lobelia cardinalis which flourished in the pond margins. I did try Lobelia tupa with its brick red flowers but it never did very well. That lovely Lobelia syphilitica would be much more fitting in my current garden.
    Paul

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  25. So glad you discovered these. I used to have them in my old shade garden, despite the dry conditions under giant fir they did quite well. I'm always and forever buying plants at nurseries that push the envelope (and frequently I have no idea about). I justify it by saying that's how I learn.

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  26. They are all simply stunning! Definitely worth trying out.
    ~Sheryl @ Flowery Prose

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  27. I have two different Lobelia that I purchased, one Cardinal Lobelia and one Queen Victoria. I found a few Lobelia in my garden...the Blue Lobelia L. siphilitica-- and it is coming back strong.

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