Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Lobelias - for color & hummingbirds!

Lobelias are a large group of plants, named for a famous Flemish botanist, Mathias de l’Obel (1538-1616).  He was physician to James I of England.  There are several garden-worthy plants in this family.  Beginning with the annual members, one of the showiest is “Crystal Palace” lobelia.  It’s electric-blue blooms cover the top of the small 4-6” plants.  They have the familiar  2 upper petals with 3 cleft lower-lip petals. It is excellent as an edging in partial shade or in containers for eye-popping color.  We’re positive the fairies love this little charmer.

Another annual form, Cascade Lobelias trail beautifully for hanging baskets or window boxes.  Flowers are available in white, rose, lilac, deep blue, or sapphire blue.  They prefer the cool temperatures of spring and early autumn.  The small flowers are in abundance, and give any planter an airy, feminine look.  We love to mix them with Wave or Million Bells petunias in containers because we can easily find colors to match or compliment one another.

The perennial forms look nothing like the annual lobelias, except that the flower shape has the identical lower-lipped petals.  The perennial forms have stiff upright stems, covered with the tubular blooms.

Cardinal flower is one of the perennial, tall (3’) members of the family.  The flowers are the brilliant scarlet of the cardinal, Indiana’s state bird.   Blooming in late summer, the plant is sought by hummingbirds.  The native Cardinal flower has bright green leaves, and is very durable.  A newer form, with burgundy toned leaves, “Queen Victoria” is slightly less hardy.  Plant either in moist sunny soils, or in partial shade and average soil.

Great Blue Lobelia is an old-time medicinal plant.  The common form has bright sky-blue blooms, but we also grow it in a pure white form.  This is a lovely plant for the woodland setting, where it can naturalize well in slightly moist soils and shady conditions.   The plant reaches over 3’ in height.  Both are nice for adding color to a shade garden later in the season than most shade-loving perennials bloom.

Hybridizers have developed new varieties of lobelia.  One of our favorites is Lobelia “Monet’s Moment”.  We’ve had it in full sun for six years, and it has performed very well, as long as we water it during dry spells.  The flowers are a brilliant shocking neon-rose that always attract comment.  Hummingbirds are also attracted to it.  I’m going to add some to the shade garden this year, and I’m sure they will do very well there as well.

If your garden needs some end of the summer color, add lovely perennial lobelias!