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Lobelia, Cardinal Flower

Buy Any 3 Perennial Plants or Bulbs & Save 20%
Buy Any 3 Perennial Plants or Bulbs & Save 20%. Cannot be applied to previous orders. Limited time only. While supplies last.

Short Description

Grows anywhere, adored by hummingbirds and butterflies.

Full Description

The lovely native cardinal flower forms brilliant spikes in incandescent scarlet-red. Large, lovely bird-like florets cover 36" tall spikes like butterfly wings.
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Product properties

Zone This refers to the USDA hardiness zone assigned to each part of the country, based on the minimum winter temperature that a region typically experiences. Hardiness zone ranges are provided for all perennial plants and you should always choose plants that fall within your range.


Sun The amount of sunlight this product needs daily in order to perform well in the garden. Full sun means 6 hours of direct sun per day; partial sun means 2-4 hours of direct sun per day; shade means little or no direct sun.

Full Sun, Part Sun

Height The typical height of this product at maturity.

36-40 inches

Spread The width of the plant at maturity.

18-24 inches

Bloom Season The time of the year when this product normally blooms.

Fall, Summer

Resistant To Adverse garden conditions, such as heat or frost, deer or rabbits, that this product can tolerate well.

Deer, Rabbit, Wet Soil

Plant Shipping Information

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Introduction to Perennials
Introduction to Perennials
Perennials return year after year blooming on their own. Watch this introduction and discover how easy and rewarding growing perennials can be.
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Perennials Tour #1
Perennials Tour #1
Take a garden tour and see favorite perennial plants in a garden setting. In this video- Shasta Daisy, Ornamental Grass, Butterfly Bush, Echinacea and Hydrangea.
Watch video
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Lobelia: Indoor Sow or Potted Perennial Plant

How to Sow and Plant Lobelia Perennials

Sowing Lobelia Seed Indoors:

  • Sow indoors seeds 8-12 weeks before the last frost
  • Sow thinly and just press into seed-starting formula
  • Keep the soil moist at 65-75 degrees F
  • Seedlings emerge in about 20 days
  • As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3-4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for this process because they will get too hot. Most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.
  • Seedlings do not need much fertilizer, feed when they are 3-4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food) according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • If you are growing lobelia in small cells, you may need to transplant the seedlings to 3 or 4 inch pots when seedlings have at least 2 pairs of true leaves before transplanting to the garden so they have enough room to develop strong roots
  • Before planting lobelia in the garden, seedling plants need to be “hardened off”. Accustom young plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect them from wind and hot sun at first. If frost threatens at night, cover or bring containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning.  This hardening off process toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

Planting Lobelia in the Garden:

  • Select a location with well-drained, rich, moist soil in partial shade to full sun. If in full sun, make sure plants get plenty of water.
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible.
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods.
  • Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock.
  • Dig a hole for each plant, approximately 6-8 inches apart large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
  • Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth.
  • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand.
  • Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds.

How to Grow Lobelia Plants

  • Keep weeds under control during the lobelia growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination.
  • Mulches can also be used to help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time.  Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Growing lobelia plantsCareful watering is essential in getting lobelia perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry. One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge.
  • Until the plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
  • Deadhead to encourage repeat blooming.
  • Pinch plants if you prefer bushier growth.
  • Do not cut back in fall, cut back in spring.
  • Divide every 2-3 years.

Lobelia Varieties Available at Burpee Seeds

Lobelia Growing Tips

  • Perennial lobelias are useful for difficult, wet locations. They are attractive in the middle or back of the border, and naturalize well in woodlands and along stream banks. They are very effective massed in the landscape.
  • Lobelias make great cutting flowers as well. Cut when flowers are 1/3 open.

Perennial Growing Tips

Full Sun, Part Sun
36-40 inches
18-24 inches
Bloom Season
Fall, Summer
Resistant To
Deer, Rabbit, Wet Soil
Ornamental Use
Borders, Cut Flowers
Planting Time
Fall, Spring
Life Cycle
Lobelia, Cardinal Flower is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 11.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can’t wait for it to Bloom! Planted this in the Fall when it arrived, and this photo was taken today of it’s growth this Spring.
Date published: 2019-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful red flowers I purchased two plants which grew tall and had beautiful flowers.
Date published: 2016-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fried last Summer Came up very pretty in one straight spike. Didn't have a chance to get full when the summer sun just fried it. Hasn't reappeared this year.
Date published: 2016-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So glad I bought these! I bought 3 of these plants in Spring 2015 and planted them right away. They steadily grew until they were over 3ft tall (in partial shade) and oh my gosh they are so pretty in bloom! This must be the prettiest, purest shade of red I've ever seen. And yes they do attract hummingbirds! This is such a perfect plant that I can't believe more people don't grow them. I love my Cardinal Flowers!
Date published: 2016-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Arrived in great shape Very healthy looking plants and carefully packaged. They are thriving in the ground.
Date published: 2013-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really worked out well I took delivery of four Cardinal Flower plants from Burpee on March 23, 2012. I immediately watered them while they were in they were still in their shipping pots then let them acclimate to their new surroundings for three days before planting in the garden. They showed no signs of life for a few weeks before taking off like rockets. Four months (July 31) after planting my tallest one just topped five feet. Another is at four feet and the third is around 42 inches tall. The fourth one was lost in a gardening accident. All three surviving plants are producing spectacular flowers that are drawing hummingbirds as July turns to August. The soil they are growing in is loam that has been well cared for over the years. I mulch it with cedar in the summer and in the fall all the leaves from my yard go into the bed. My house is in the city not the country. These plants exceeded my expectations and I plan on purchasing more.
Date published: 2012-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing growth! I got my lobelia in the Fall (October), planted it right away, and prepared it for the winter. It was minuscule on the ground and appeared so frail that I was afraid it was not going to make it. Spring came and the other plants started coming out of their dormant states, but my little lobelia was still there looking sad and dry, but not quite dead. I started worrying anyway. A few weeks passed and one day I noticed one bright green-looking growth. Then I completely redid my border, a work in progress: changed the topsoil and by the same token moved the lobelia to a sunnier location. Soon another growth came, and since, it's been growing like a weed! It has 3 abundantly leafed growths now, the tallest measuring about 2 feet. It's by far my most successful plant. On sunny days, in the mid-afternoon, it starts leaning and leaning... it gets dehydrated quite fast!! A good watering and it peaks right back up. Watering twice a day is a must, it seems. It may well have thrived because of all of the rain we've been having. So, lots of beautiful green so far, and I'm hopeful I may get to see some red later in the year. But maybe not, and that's okay, I'll be patient and wait till next year.
Date published: 2012-05-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from May not know for a while Mine is also just sitting there doing nothing. I did a little research. Apparently the first year this flower will simply be a small rosette-like plant, similar to what I received. According to one writer it will flower in year two. It's still too early to tell if the plant Burpee sent was a first or second year plant. It's been a few weeks and there hasn't been any new growth yet, though I expect little until late May or early June.
Date published: 2012-04-05
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