Light: Full sun – Partial Shade
Soil: Wet – medium wet
Height: 5 feet
Description: Cardinal Flower is named for its beautiful scarlet red flowers which are an important nectar source for hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies. Lobelias produce a secondary compound known as "lobeline," which deters herbivores. The flowering spikes open from the bottom to the top and bloom for several weeks. They grow best in moist, rich soils in full sun to partial shade. Cardinal flower is a showy plant great for the garden or wetland planting. Parent plants will not persist for more than a few years, but it is a prolific self-seeder and fast grower. As long as the tiny seeds can make soil contact, you will have a revolving colony of new red blooms each year. Cardinal flower thrives with disturbance, so scratch the surface of the soil under the parent plant after it has dropped its seeds. This will encourage germination the following year. Without disturbance, the plants will fade out after a few years.
Attracts: The nectar of the flowers attracts the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird and various Swallowtail butterflies, including such species as Papilio polyxenes asterias (Black Swallowtail), Papilio troilus (Spicebush Swallowtail),and Battus philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail). Sometimes the larger bumblebees will steal nectar through slits in the tubular corolla. Halictid bees sometimes gather pollen, but they are ineffective at pollination. The larvae of a polyphagous fly, Metopomyza scutellata, mine the leaves of Cardinal Flower. The caterpillars of a moth, Enigmogram mabasigera (Pink-washed Looper Moth), also feed on the leaves.