Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cardinal Flower – A Hummingbird Magnet

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a hardy perennial native in USDA zones 5-8. Clumps should be divided every 2-3 years to retain plant vigor. Soil moisture determines its height and vigor.

Cardinal flower prefers half-day direct morning sunlight, particularly in more southern climes. The brilliant red flowers bloom from late July through most of September, making it a standout on their own or mixed with other perennials. Deadheading (pruning off the old floral stems) extends out its flowering period.

Cardinal flower grows 3 feet high and 2 ½ feet wide, and is taller when planted at the edge of a pond or water garden. This lobelia is at home in a rain garden, particularly when summer moisture is plentiful. Fertilize with a water soluble product monthly or feed bi-monthly with agricultural grade fertilizer (10-10-10 or equivalent) from late winter to the end of the flowering period.

Select these two cultivars -- ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ exhibits bright green foliage which turns a deep olive color on the leaf upper surface and maroon on the underside; flowers are bright red. ‘Monet Moment’ bears exquisite rose-pink flowers. Blooms on both cultivars are exceptionally larger than species.

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