Cardinalflower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Cardinalflower is a perennial herbaceous plant that produces erect spikes of brilliant red blooms. Flowers are tubular and two-lipped, with wide-spreading petals that appear lobed, but are actually fused. Leaves are bright green, elliptic to lanceolate, have toothed margins and are alternately arranged.
Cardinalflower attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. It occurs naturally in floodplain forests, riverine swamps, spring runs and along river and stream edges. It is listed as a threatened species in Florida.
The common name cardinalflower has been in use since the mid-1600s and is likely derived from the flower’s similarity to the robes worn by Catholic cardinals.
Family: Campanulaceae (Bellflower family)
Native range: Panhandle, north and central peninsula
To see where natural populations of cardinalflower have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Rich, acidic, poorly drained soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 2–5’
Propagation: Seed, division
Garden tips: Cardinalflower is great for moist wildflower gardens, water gardens, and along edges of ponds, streams and drainage depressions.
Caution: All parts of this plant are believed to be toxic if ingested.
Cardinalflower is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.