Cardinalflower (Cardinalis) is generally described as
a perennial forb/herb.
native to the U.S. (United States)
has its most active growth period in the
Cardinalflower (Cardinalis) has
green foliage and
red flowers, with
a moderate amount of
conspicuous blue fruits or seeds.
The greatest bloom is usually observed in the
with fruit and seed production starting in the
summer and continuing until
not retained year to year.
Cardinalflower (Cardinalis) has a
moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a
moderate growth rate.
At maturity, the typical
Cardinalflower (Cardinalis) will reach up to
5.9 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of
Cardinalflower (Cardinalis) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by
It has a
slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have
Note that cold stratification is
not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below
medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.
Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.
Ethnobotanic: The Iroquois had many medicinal uses for cardinal flower. The root was boiled together with the root of Cichorium intybus and the liquid was used to treat fever sores. The mashed roots, stems, leaves, and blossoms were made into a decoction and drank for cramps. The plant was also used as an emetic for an upset stomach from eating something bad. The plant was added to other medicines to give them more strength. The Delaware used an infusion of the roots to treat typhoid. The Meskwaki used this plant as a ceremonial tobacco, throwing it to the winds to ward off a storm. The Pawnee used the roots and flowers of cardinal flower in the composition of a love charm.
Wildlife: Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar. Deer browsing often damages young plants.
General: Bellflower Family (Campanulaceae). This herbaceous perennial is 5 to 15 cm. tall with unbranched stems. The alternate leaves are toothed and oblong to lance-shaped and pointed at both ends. The irregular, two-lipped flowers are tubular with the upper portion two-lobed and the lower spreading and divided into three parts. The fire engine red flowers appear in long terminal racemes and they are from 30-45 mm. The anthers are at the end of a slender red filament tube extending out over the lower lip of the corolla. The corolla has a slit on each side near the base. The seeds come in a two-celled, many-seeded capsules opening at the top. They are small, less than 1 mm. and numerous.
Required Growing Conditions
This plant is found in wet soil from New Brunswick to Minnesota, south to the Gulf of Mexico. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Cultivation and Care
Adaptation: Cardinal flower is comparatively easy to grow. The capsules can be collected in autumn, usually October. The stalks are cut below the capsules, and placed upside down in a per sack. Once, home, the bag is opened so that the capsules are exposed to the air for a few days. Shake the bag to release the seeds. Crushing the capsules with a rolling pin and picking out the seeds from the litter can retrieve the capsules that have remaining seeds. The seeds can then be planted right away.
Propagation by seeds: The seeds will germinate without cold stratification, but they need light, so sow the seeds in a flat with a damp fine grade peat light mix. Keep the flats moist and under lights or in a greenhouse. They should green up in a few weeks. Transplant them in 4-6 weeks into individual pots such as 70 cell plug trays, use the same potting mix and keep fertilizing. The seedlings are tiny at first, so fertilize them every other week with a liquid fertilizer. After another 4 weeks they can be put out in the garden or transplanted into larger pots of 4 to 6 inch diameter. Plant the plants in an outdoor spot that is in full sun or very light shade and never dries completely. Space the plants 8 to 12 inches apart. Add plenty of peat moss when planting and mulch well to keep the soil cool and moist. Protect the plants from deer. Cardinal flower will take two years to bloom, forming a large rosette the first year. Allow the plants to self-sow. They are heavy feeders, so compost or a shot of granular fertilizer when they begin growth is recommended.
Propagation by cuttings: Take two node stem cuttings (4-6 inches) before the flowers open and remove the lower leaf and half the upper leaf. Treat the cutting with hormodin 2 or roottone and place the cuttings in a sand and perlite medium, cover lightly, water, and remember to keep the medium moist. Roots will form in 2-3 weeks, but the cuttings need to force a good new crown from the lower node to successfully over-winter.
General Upkeep and Control
When well established clumps of this plant can be divided in the fall or spring by separating the rosettes or basal offshoots from the mother plant and replanting these divisions and watering them immediately. In the winter, keep the leafy offshoots at the base of the drying stems of old plants free of leaf litter to allow them full exposure to the air and sunshine.
Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA