Lobelia cardinalis pink

Family:     Campanulaceae (bellflower family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     60-120 cm (up to 2-4 ft)

Blooming: July-Sept.


Cardinal flower

Lobelia cardinalis L.

Herbaceous unbranched, perennial


Stem: angular and green.  It can be sparsely hairy or more densely pubescent.

Flowers: borne on spike-like terminal clusters that can be up to 61 cm (2 ft) long. Along that spike are numerous red tubular flowers. The flowers form in late summer and are up to 3.8 cm (1.5 in) long. The two lipped flowers face upward and have two lobes on their upper lip spreading wide and three lobes on their lower lip. In between the upper lobes is a long style.

Leaves: upper leaves are sessile while lower leaves have short petioles. The stems grow from a basal rosette. The leaves up the stem are lance-shaped, green and sharply toothed. There is almost a gold glaze sometimes colored on the green leaves and stem. Leaves are arranged alternately

Sun: Full to part sun

Ideal Conditions:  Saturated open to shaded conditions, can tolerate moist soils.

INPAWS Native Communities:  Water's Edge (sun)


Lobelia cardinalis indiana dunes

 Comments: Cardinal flower is easy to identify from other lobelia due to its deep red color. Sometimes a rare pink or white variety will appear.  The lobelia flowers are actually upside down or inverted.  The three bottom lobes are actually the upper lobes and vice versa.  

Etymology: The name Lobelia comes from a 16th century botanist Mathias de Lobel. The epithet name, cardinalis, is derived from the robes worn by Catholic Cardinals.  


Lobelia cardinalis indiana dunes

Landscape: Cardinal flower is one of the most attractive wildflowers in Indiana. Its deep red colors put a spotlight in your garden.  It does need moist soil. Hummingbirds are an important and primary pollinator for Cardinal flowers.  

Lobelia cardinalis leaf

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Species Present and Native