Cardinal Flower

Red Cardinal Flower

The Cardinal flower grows in the wild around or near water, such as on the banks of ponds or streams, and even in marshes and bogs.

Cardinal like a lot of water, and will not grow well if you don’t keep them moist.

This plant belongs to the Lobelia family, most members of which share these same characteristics.

It bears large masses of extremely beautiful spiked flowers that look different and bring a touch of the exotic to any garden.

The leaves are generally of a burgundy color.

It’s not just the plants, foliage, and flowers that will add to the beauty of your garden, these plants are great for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds when they are in bloom.

The Cardinal plant blooms in summer and the flowers will last right through until early fall. The plant can grow to a height of between three to four feet high and will spread out to about three feet in diameter.

Blue Cardinal flower love water and sun, but will do well if you provide some shade in the hottest part of the day.

Remember Cardinal flower prospers in moist soil, but the soil should never be water-logged – waterlogging will most likely cause the leaves to rot.

Plant these interesting species in groups for maximum effect – they look beautiful when planted in groups or when planted with other species of plants that provide contrast, for example the Hibiscus ‘kopper king’ or the Veronica ‘royal candles’.

Care of the Cardinal Flower Plant

Generally speaking, the blooming period of the Cardinal plant is quite long, and under ideal conditions can last up to a month.

These plants flower from July to around September and the blossoms grow on stalks that can rise up to four feet high.

They like the shade and the plant itself will usually self sow. Generally speaking though; using division to propagate Cardinal flower is a far more effective way to ensure that you will have the plant in your garden the next year.

You will also find ‘dead heading’ and pruning Cardinal to be quite effective in encouraging a second round of flowers.

The flowers are very attractive display pieces, and when placed in a saucer of water will attract hummingbirds almost close enough to touch, if you are lucky enough to live somewhere with hummingbirds!

I would recommend HostasFerns and Astilbe as companion plants for this species.


It is crucially important to mulch in winter. Use a soil mixture in compost for this and place it around the crown. Mulching is also extremely useful in summer as it tends to keep the roots moist and fairly cool, thus protecting them from the summer heat.

How to…

This perennial is a native of North America and therefore is right at home in most northern climates.

It is best planted on borders, both of flower and shrub beds, and it’s bright flowers are extremely attractive.

It is also very easy to grow, and so is a good plant for the amateur gardener.

Two things you have to remember about maintenance is that this plant will need fertilizer every spring, preferably something of the organic variety, and that it will need maintenance every fall – a cutting back of the older stems to the ground.

You can use bypass pruning tools to do this, and be very careful not to damage any new growth.


Cardinal flower is a member of the Lobelia family and Lobelia like rich, moist, well drained soil. In their natural setting they are found near streams, ponds, and boggy areas. They do like to stay on the moist side.

These flowers for shade are attractors of butterflies and their red flowers will certainly also attract hummingbirds.

The flowers will last at least three weeks in ideal conditions.

Cardinal bloom time is around July to September. The blooms rise above the leaves 3 to 4 feet, and the plant will spread 1 to 2 feet.

These plants will self sow but division in spring or fall is a better way to ensure you’ll have an abundant supply of red flowers year after year. You can prune after the first flush of flowers to encourage a second blooming.

Mulch with a compost rich soil mixture to feed and protect the crown in Winter. Mulching will keep the roots cool and moist in the heat of the Summer.

Cardinals make a great container plant.

FernsHosta and Astilbe are good companion plants.

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