Lobelia Fast Facts

Lobelia Fast Facts image by Jennifer Anderson, USDA-NRCS Plants Database
Lobelia Fast Facts image by Jennifer Anderson, USDA-NRCS Plants Database


Lobelias are a large genus of plants belonging to the bell flower family. They have become popular garden and bedding plants. Wild lobelias, like the bright red cardinal flower, are a favorite for wildflower enthusiasts.

Lobelia cardinalis group (photo byTim Ross)

Genus Lobelia

The genus Lobelia consists of about 400 different species. Well-known types include the cardinal flower (L. cardinalis), Indian tobacco (L. inflata) and the brook Lobelia (L kalmii).


Lobelia flowers are small and tubular shaped. Colors range from shades of red and pink to blue, purple, yellow and white.


Most species like moist, well draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Some will grow in boggy conditions. They prefer full sun to full shade.


Lobelias will readily self seed. Collected seeds benefit from a three-month chill in the refrigerator before germination. Divisions can be taken from the base of the rosettes in the fall.

Herbal Medicine

Several species of Lobelia are used for medicinal purposes. The flowers of L. inflata were smoked by Native Amercians to help ease symptoms of asthma, which is the origin of the name Indian tobacco.


  • Lobelia
  • Native Plant Database; Lobelia cardinalis
  • Connecticut Botanical Society: Brook Lobelia

Who Can Help

  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Lobelia
Keywords: cardinal flower, Indian tobacco, medical lobelia

About this Author

Brian Albert has been in the publishing industry since 1999. He is an expert in horticulture, with a focus on aquatics and tropical plants like orchids. He has successfully run an aquatic plant business for over five years. Albert's writing experience includes the Greater Portland Aquarium Society newsletter and politics coverage for a variety of online journals.

Photo by: Jennifer Anderson, USDA-NRCS Plants Database