Common to Chile, Lobelia excelsa is also known in its native land as tabaco del diablo, or the devil's tobacco. It is an evergreen perennial shrub that has impressive orange-red blossoms. Lobelia excelsa is used in the United States as an ornamental plant. It can be included in gardens that are designed to attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.
The stem of the plant is long and ribbed. The leaves are lance-shaped, spiraling up the stem, and average 4 to 8 inches in length and 1 inch in width. Each leaf has a central rib that extends from the stem to the tip. The leaves are bright green and glossy.
The flowers of the plant come in shades from bright orange to red. They are tubular, and two to three inches in length. The petals extend from a base, called the sepal, which is attached to the plant by a thin stem, about 1 inch in length. As the flower matures, its stigma, the male portion of the plant, will project from the side of the blossom.
The plant is indigenous to the central areas of Chile. It grows in lower coastal areas and interior valleys and up into coastal mountains to an altitude of around 6000 feet. It is commonly found growing in drier, level areas and on north-facing slopes where the average rainfall ranges from only 10 to 15 inches per year.
Lobelia excelsa is a tropical plant and will grow well in hardiness zones 9 through 11 in the United States. The plant can tolerate an occasional frost and temperatures as low as 15° F. It also grows best in full sun. Lobelia excelsa can grow to 6 feet tall and 4 feet across. The flowers form along the stems and bloom in both spring and fall.
The plant is very easy to cultivate from seeds or cuttings. Lobelia excelsa prefers drier climates during the growing season. It can tolerate drought conditions and should be watered infrequently.