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Lobelia

Campanulaceae (Lobeliaceae)
Annuals, Perennials

All are grown for their tubular, lipped flowers, which resemble those of honeysuckle (Lonicera) or Salvia. Annual kinds are low plants for edgings or hanging baskets; perennial sorts are larger, vertical-growing plants with flowering stalks that rise above the foliage.

Lobelia cardinalis

This perennial is native to the eastern United States and to a few sites in the mountains of the Southwest. Erect, single-stemmed plant grows to 2–4 ft. high and 1 ft. wide. Sawtooth-edged leaves are set directly on the stems. Spikes of flame red, inch-long flowers show up in summer.

Lobelia erinus (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
Lobelia erinus (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)

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Lobelia erinus

This annual is from South Africa. Popular, dependable edging plant grows to 3–6 in. high. Compact forms reach 5–9 in. wide; trailing types spread to 1 1/2 ft. Leafy, branching stems with green or bronzy green foliage. Blooms from early summer to frost, bearing 3/4-in.-wide flowers in light blue to violet (sometimes pink, reddish purple, or white) with white or yellowish throats. Lives over winter in mild climates. In mild-winter, hot-summer regions, grow it as a winter-to-spring annual.

Lobelia x speciosa ‘Grape Knee-Hi’ (photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.)
Lobelia x speciosa ‘Grape Knee-Hi’ (photo courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.)

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Lobelia x speciosa

Perennial. Group of hybrids of uncertain ancestry. Can reach 5 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide; many combine red leaves and red flowers. Compliment series, to 2 1/2 ft. high, has dark green leaves; blossoms may be scarlet, deep red, or blue-purple. Fan series grows to 2 ft. high and 16 in. wide; comes in blue, burgundy, red, rose, salmon, and scarlet. ‘Grape Knee-Hi’, 2 ft. high, is a sturdy plant with rich purple blooms. Provide rich soil, ample water, full sun or partial shade.

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