Overwintering cardinal flowers in zone 6a

Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Just wondering if anyone knows the secret to overwintering cardinal flowers in cold winter areas like zone 6a or colder.I'm tired of spending perennial plant prices for something that behaves like an annual.I read that not cutting them back in the fall helps.I have had some stay partly green through winter only to die in the early,wet springsthat we have here.I mixed sand and compost into the planting holes and added an amendment to make the soil slightly more acidic this year.I am even considering working in some river silt to try to duplicate their native environment. I'm not sure what to do as far as mulching because I'm afraid it could cause them to rot when the weather starts to warm.Please,if anyone has found a method that works I would love to hear it.I want to have big beautiful plants that return every spring and that form larger clumps each year.I positioned them so they get about 5 to six hours of full sun and then afternoon shade.I don't let the soil completely dry out between waterings.I also grow great blue lobelia and that one seems hardier and comes back even without mulching.Of all my hummingbird plants it's the cardinal flower that is the most important to me.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Jaybird, cardinal flower is just not a very dependable species, year over year. I love the plant and have just a few around our wildlife pond, but it's nothing to count on being back the following year. Sorry, not much of an answer, I know!

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texasranger2

This is a bog plant good down to zone 4. It needs constant moisture during the growing season so it seems the best thing to do is provide enough moisture to grow healthy plants with good root systems. You didn't indicate where you live but zone 6a is well under the limit. Just about the only place I would attempt to grow one here would by next to where the air conditioner drains all summer, otherwise its way too dry and I'd be constantly dumping water on it, rot would be the least of my worries.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

From my experience, it likes a somewhat drier winter area than it's summer high moisture requirements. It also profits from being divided either every year or every other year to keep the plants vigorous. Mine grow best in mostly full sun (zone 7a here) and have no issue as long as soil moisture is maintained. Lobelia tends to not be the strongest perennials, and if your site is correct and allows for that, it reseeds pretty well, that allows it to persist. Mimulus also seems to be that way (I grow mimulus alatus in similar conditions..maybe a bit more shade).

Btw, I had poor results using the AC drainage, as when the weather cooled it got too dry (and I didn't notice quickly enough...crispy plant).

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texasranger2

Mine is on the east side of the courtyard. I grow a Rush plant closest to the drain and 8 Prairie Fire carex in the rest of the area. Both do fine in winter and I never have to water. Its the only place I'd try the carex. A few feet away in the same bed there are cactus, penstemon and a large yucca rostrata. I think of it as rather comical but they actually look good growing together in the same area.

There are several other plants that attract hummingbirds just as well as Cardinal flowers by the way. If all fails, I'd choose another plant. I certainly wouldn't waste water all summer long insisting I grow something that needs constant water, more than what nature supplies.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Oh wow I didn't mean to sound like cardinal flower was the only hummingbird plant I grew.The list is way too long to write out.I kind of surrounded them with a small dirt wall to cause more water to pool around them.I still am going to try adding river silt to make the soil hold more moisture,and as soon as my compost is finished I'm going to mulch them good. I've never had any cardinal flowers get to the point where they were big enough to be divided.If they do grow in water then having wet conditions in winter shouldn't hurt them,right? I just think the red flowers are beautiful and the hummingbirds buzzing around them are beautiful and I want to have a huge clump of them.That would be awesome.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Well, that's been my experiences...and after a single rosette flowers, it usually produces anywhere from three to twelve offset rosettes. I'd say early to mid spring would be the best time to divide and separate them. I let my single stay together this year, and I have about a dozen stems reaching for flowering height (currently at three feet, but the parent topped at seven last year...very wet year).

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I wish they grew as vigorous up here as they do in Arkansas.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I don't think it's the geographic location as much as the culture and perhaps the genetics of the plants.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Yes, I'd suspect dbarron is correct. I mean, we've got cardinal flower all the way up here in Wisconsin-it's plenty winter-hardy, as Tex said right at the get-go. I just don't consider it to be very durable. BTW, blue lobelia-also an attractive wetland species-does seem to stick around just a bit better.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

The Wisconsin cardinal flowers that you know to be hardy,are they growing wild,in gardens,or both? I'm going to make a bog garden next spring.Would they survive the winter under frozen water? I'm going to collect seeds from the 3 I have and winter sow them around the parents.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

They're not aquatics, so I would say...no they won't survive more than short-term immersions.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I've seen pictures of them growing in water so I wasn't sure if they could grow in water all the time or not.I think I put a lot more care into planting them this time so I feel hopeful they will come back.If I winter sow the seeds will they bloom next year? I'm thinking they should because my great blue ones do. I just want to grow the natives and not interested in hybrids.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Wet soil but actual water....no, not so much. Actually, most wetland plants do have a degree of tolerance to inundation. Books have listings of the time a given species will tolerate being under water. But that assumes the water will go down. No way will this species survive an entire winter inundated.

jaybirdy, I've seen red cardinal flower in both scenarios-areas that were obviously planted by humankind and places where it is coming up on its own. Lots of wetlands up here in Wisconsin.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I had no idea it grew wild in Wisconsin.It's colder there than Illinois although maybe not as windy. I'm thinking that growing them in a bog garden might not be a good idea.Moist soil is better. I have a blue flag iris that hasn't bloomed because it needs more sun.It needs constant moisture too,and I've seen them growing in water so I think a bog garden would be great for that.I'd like to put a water willow (justicia) and horsetail and maybe Marsh marigold in it as well.My cardinalis plants have been in the ground for about 3 weeks now.They look healthy,but haven't put on any height yet. The great blue is a little farther ahead in growth and has side branches coming out.I would top dress the cardinalis with compost,but the bottom leaves are touching the ground so I would have to partially bury the plants.Hummingbird plants in my yard currently blooming are petunia exserta,red bedder nicotiana,autumn sage,amistad sage,pentas,rose verbena,hoary vervain,lavender, hosta,candy corn vine (manettia). Many more to come.

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ctnchpr

I keep mine submerged during the Winter here in 6b/7a - seems to moderate the temperature swings.



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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Do you have plants in that frozen bog that come back in the spring?

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tomcolt

This is my first time trying to grow cardinal flower. I'm in the Chicago area. I purchased them from a nursery between 5-12 inches tall this spring and I have the hybrid and the green variety. I've noticed the green variety likes only about 5 hours of morning sun with the rest of the day in shade. Because of sun burn type symptoms, I recently moved one of the green variety to the same shade spot where another green plant was thriving . The hybrid variety seems to tolerate more sun but needs some shade

. I've got a soaker hose in place on a timer and water daily for about 20 minutes. The soil stays moist under the mulch. I've just started seeing blooms form here in early July but I'm concerned about the wilt of the top of the plant. I can't tell if it's a moisture or sun issue. I have noticed that the green variety that's been in the most shade has not started to bloom yet.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

In the foreground is a clump of cardinal flower that is essentially in full sun, and I live in Arkansas. I can't imagine it not being able to take full sun farther north with adequate moisture. Though i will say mine is intrinsically stouter looking than yours Tom. I'd say mine is about 48 inches or so right now, no signs of bloom yet, though it will probably start by end of month.

Even if you weren't told full sun (by my photo), I suspect the mallow flowering behind it would suggest that. I haven't watered it but once this year, but that's more a reflection on rain that so far hasn't stopped except one 2-3 week stretch last month.

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klunker

I've seen Cardinal Flowers growing in the wild along a river in Northern Wisconsin that I fish alot. They seem to grow very close the the edge of the water altho the area is a upland hardwood forest.


I planted a couple in a small prairie plot in my yard. I'm in Sheboygan Co. They lasted over 20 years till I dug up and gave them away. They also spread slowly. Typically they would be 4-5ft tall. The site was good soil, old forest soil, not at all wet. Also grew Queen of The Prairie in the same plot, that spread much more aggressively but it almost never bloomed.

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loris(Z6 NJ)

I've read that keeping the basal rosettes clear of leaf litter et cetera over the winter helps. My yard is wet, acidic and shady and that seems to work well for them.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Err, not to make you fellows jealous...but I just (this week) discovered a fairly large clump self-sown in the middle of my pot jungle (which saved it from getting mowed). Have to say, this is my first time to have self-sown lobelia seedlings that have umm matured to flowering size without being noticed.

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ncrescue

Cardinal flower is a species that is often listed as a short lived perennial. If you think you have the same plant for many years, it has probably self sown right next to your original plant. I have many of these that pop up in pots where the air borne seeds have landed from the native (not planted) ones down near the lake, quite a distance. And they show up at the lake scattered over a large space, even IN water. In gardens, the secret to continuing these plants (in my opinion and experience) is not to have too much mulch cover, and yes, always keep those rosettes uncovered in the winter or they rot. I don't think the cold hurts them.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I bought 3 Cardinal flowers last year that never bloomed. They barely survived the winter. We had a drought this spring and they died. I don't have any moist areas in the garden so I am not sure whether to plant anymore. Good news is several Blue Lobelia siphiliticas came up from seed I threw. Hopefully they will feed the hummers just as well as the red ones would have. Seems I have much better luck with the blues. And they bloom first year from seed which is great. Even if they are short lived, many seedlings always show up.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Lobelia siphilitica is easier in my opinion.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I'm thinking I may have been pulling out some of the blue ones by mistake. I have seen others posting because they weren't sure it was a weed either. I know I threw seeds for it around December or January. Just in case there was no germination, I got 3 potted plants in the spring. Out of curiosity, I let the ones that I thought might be weeds grow,so I could identify them for sure. Turns out they were all blue Lobelias, and they are way ahead of the 3 potted ones that were planted. So, I feel like the 15 or 20 blues will at least have as much nectar as the 3 reds would have. And the Royal Catchfies have a nice amount of blooms in their 2nd year. The Salvia coccinia, Chelone and Phlox paniculata are showing signs of budding. The hummingbirds should have a nice selection, with Cypress Vine and Obediant Plant close to bloom also. I think maybe I went a little too long without growing the blue Lobelias, and I forgot what the seedlings looked like. I also let something else grow that I usually pull out, and they turned out to be White Wood Asters. I've been adding more native Asters and Goldenrods for the fall pollinators, and these had been popping up for free. Wish I could find the perfect place in the garden where red cardinal flower would thrive without too much fuss, but my area has been getting more dry spells in recent years, and because of health issues I can't commit to daily watering, which is a necessity during heatspells. I think I'm going to order more cardinalis seed and roll the dice yet again. Better to throw seed and not have them germinate, than it is to buy plants and watch them slowly dwindle away. And with seeds, you never know. They might emerge from the ground years later, when you least expect it. I will never give up on trying to grow Lobelia cardinalis. Im thinking pond liners, moisture crystals?

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I've got a half dozen or so L. cardinalis that have popped up around the edges of my rain garden (I planted three seedlings three years ago). They seem to prefer being near it, but not down in it. I'm curious to see whether they'll continue to pop up when we have a drought year -- the last couple of years have been wetter than usual. We did have a dry winter this year, but plenty of rain since then.

I've seen a hummingbird feeding at them twice this year. The second time I was heading out the back door with our dog and the bird flew off immediately in the direction of a neighbor's mimosa tree. It's hard to compete with bling like that.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

WoodsTea, is your rain garden a natural moist area, or did you create it artificially? It's been so dry in my area the last couple years. I have the gutter drain pipe emptying directly into the garden. I was going to move my blue flag iris near it,because it also needs a moister area. It's a real trouper, and has survived, but it was glorious in the past when planted near a drainpipe.When my obedient plant was planted near one it spread like crazy. Now, not much at all. I'm hoping to keep my 2 Royal Catchflies alive so they can get big like the 4 ft. ones I've read about. This is their 2nd year and they are around 18" or so. Nothing can beat their vivid red flowers, except, maybe fire pinks. I think they put out lots of nectar for hummers. Last year I grew some nearly extinct in the wild Brazilian hummingbird petunias. The only petunia evolved for hummingbirds. I started them indoors under lights. A few of these petunias came back from seed and bloomed outdoors. So I'm thinking of just sowing some outside next spring. I have tried starting Lobelis cardinals indoors under lights. The plants seem to remain very tiny, for what seems like an eternity. Would much prefer just sowing them outside and letting Mother Nature do the work. I threw some seeds for Lobelia spicata and L. inflata, but because of a dry spring I haven't seen anything growing that resembles them, though I have discovered a couple UGO s. Unidentified growing objects.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Jay, a very long time being a tiny rosette seems to be normal for cardinal flower. I prefer to divide plants for increase. For me, each rosette if divided will yield 3-5 new rosettes after flowering.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Thanks, I was saying that when I grew them under lights, it seemed like an eternity watching them stay very tiny. Like basically all plants they would grow much faster under natural sunlight. I really tried to baby the 3 plants I had last year,and watered them frequently, but even after all that the rosettes didn't seem substantial enough to divide. That's always been my dream. To have thriving cardinal flowers that I can divide and make more of. I did get 3 new cardinal flowers from a native nursery this spring. I wasn't feeling well enough to plant them, and they dried up and died in the tiny nursery containers they were in. At least a few things survived and are now planted. Anise Hyssup,Purple Prarie Clover, Butterfly Weed, and Blue Lobelia. Years ago I grew 3 c.f. that were magnificent. I still remember how often the hummingbirds gravitated to those blooms. That bed has deep, black, Liam soil. Sounds like a good place to sow some new seeds. The experiment continues!

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Jay, I created the rain garden in my back yard. I have a detached garage and the driveway slopes down to it. Lots of water heads down that way during storms, and I divert it off the drive to the right, along a short swale and into the rain garden itself. The farther you get from the drive, the sunnier it is. Nearer the drive, where the cardinal flower lives, it's shady most of the day until late afternoon. The whole area gets a heavy cover of pin oak leaves in the fall, many of which come down so late that I don't get them raked up until spring.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I can't keep Dalea (prairie clover) to save my life...too wet :( So I guess it's a trade off for you :)


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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Has anyone ever had Lobelia cardinalis bloom the first year from seed? I was wondering, because I've had L. syphilitica do that. Seems like most perennials bloom in their second year. Ageratina, snake root is the other one I have, that blooms first year from seed. I have a bed with sandy soil where I'm growing my 3 Dalea purpurea plants. I also counted 4 Dalea filiosa seedlings. They are endangered and I have scattered 2 packets of their seeds already. What I like about Prairie Moon Nursery, is they send you the legume's specific microrrhizal bacteria with the seeds. The blue cardinal flowers are looking great. They are making up for the 3 red ones I lost. Have some new seeds, they are Cirsium discolor,Cirsium altissimum, for pollinators and painted ladies, Callerhoe bushii, for pollinators and because it's pretty, Anemone cylindrica, Anemone virginiana, for pollinators and goldfinches, Asclepius speciosa for the Monarchs,and pretty, Argemone polyanthemos for pollinators and because I love poppies. The prickly poppy will be sown in the sandy bed along with Monarda citriodora, which I need to order, when I order more Lobelia cardinalis seeds. I have to be careful weeding the Oxalis, and other weeds from the sandy bed, because I spotted some tiny, baby Leadplants, and they stay small, and grow slowly for quite a while. This thread doesn't need to always discuss Lobelia cardinalis, and everyone is welcome to ramble on about anything, as long as it has something to do with native plants. There are 5 species of endangered Asclepius I want to grow, but sourcing seeds so far looks difficult.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

*rambling on* I've grown (or tried) much of what you listed. Never could get any success with the argemone either.

Yes, this week both lobelias (cardinalis and siphitica) came into bloom here...love 'em.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

My Salvia coccinia are just starting to bloom. They have been with me a long time. I will have to read up and make sure the Argemone seeds are planted correctly. I think maybe once, years ago I planted a packet of them and they never germinated. I forgot to include garden balsam as one of the species of Impatiens I've grown in my Impatien thread.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Callirhoe bushii is interesting, one of the earliest plants to green up in the spring for me, like in February, although I'm sure it's partly due to the warm and sunny location I have them in on the south side of the house. The plant sprawls pretty badly for me, and I plan to pull it out this fall. I'll move a couple of its children out to the back where it's wilder and sprawl isn't a problem.

I'm not really a huge fan of cardinal flower other than the hummingbird feature. I'm sure it's the only reason I have seen hummingbirds in my yard the last two years, for the first time since I bought the house in 2000. I think my problem is that the foliage is weedy looking, and the red is such a bright, almost fluorescent color that I don't think combines well with much else that's blooming in my garden at the time.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I think you showed a pic of your Callerhoe before. They were beautiful. I tried growing the native verbena, Glandularia canadensis last year. It was thriving, and growing into the stone walkway. I thought for sure it would come back, but it didn't. That was my second attempt, so I'm trying out new plants to use as edging, like the Callerhoe. Actually, I kind of like the bright red color. It's so intense! The Royal Catchflies are very bright red too. Usually there are hot purple and orange colored blooms around to tone the red down. Last year I planted annual Gailardia and they got shaded out by taller Zinnias. Probably got only 1 or two tiny blooms. A couple of them came up this year, and have been flowering their heads off all season. Speaking of red. A few years ago I wanted to grow some red, large flowered morning glories. For 2 years I struggled to grow them. There were germination problems,weather problems, and then vole problems. They were just getting tall enough to start climbing the trellis. I looked out the window one day and they were gone completely. I looked about 10 feet further back and saw a whole morning glory disappearing down a vole's throat. It was horrible. The next year I tried growing them again. This time I put chicken wire around them, and babied them. They did reach blooming size, and I was getting excited. I looked out one morning and saw my first bloom. It wasn't red, it was purple. OMG!!! They were from a Burpee packet labeled red, with a picture of a red mg. My cypress vine always comes back like a weed each year, so at least I still had a red mg, but I really wanted a big one. The voles got really bad and ate the roots of some of my favorite perennials like Missouri Primrose. Then all the voles completely disappeared. Maybe they are like lemmings? There are no cliffs around here for them to commit mass suicide, so I'm not sure what happened? A new neighbor had moved in with 3 outdoor cats. Maybe they solved the vole problem? I would find decapitated bunnies when mowing the lawn.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Canadian verbena is like htat...you need to start cuttings or allow for reseeding, it's short lived left on it's own (like 2 yrs0.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'm done trying to grow the Glandularia. The annual Verbena tenuinsecta grows fast, has fernier foliage, and attracts more butterflies. I will use those instead. I have V. bonariensis, and hoary vervain already.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

I really do like the plant in my zone, it's the first thing to flower and the last thing to stop (with blooms in Dec and usuallly by late Feb). It is a lot of trouble though (V canadensis->Glandularia)

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

Yeah, last year's 3 Glandularia were so lush. If it's trouble, and short lived in your zone, then that explains why I've had such bad luck. There's like a few plants I can not get to grow, no matter what. Dictamnus, sweetfern, Marshallia,. The only one I keep trying is cardinal flower. I have never had a thread this long before. Now I know how it feels. I was thinking of starting an identical post and deleting this one. A lot less scrolling, and people will start thinking me and Dandy are competing. I think there's a " How to kill Trumpet Vine" thread somewhere on here that's been running for years. That's how long it takes to kill them, years.

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caroline sawyer

Hi! I am not quite in your zone, however I love hearing about the ups and down experiences of various zones. I have also recently come across this exceptional tool and have this this strong urge to share it with everyone I think may appreciate it as much as I do: a brand new interactive planting zone map!!!


https://gilmour.com/planting-zones-hardiness-map

It is beautiful, magical and everything any new or old gardener wants to see in a planting zone map. Use it, love it and share on the knowledge to all your fellow gardeners

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Take heart Jay, for this thread is eternal :)

Well, I lost my large clump of cardinal flower (unless there are seedlings that I won't discover for a bit) this year, due to abrupt cold, thawing cycles. Sigh, I'll miss it..but I had it for four years or five.


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ncrescue

My natural ones, i.e., not planted, are just now peeking up, so take heart. Maybe they will show up. I am in zone 7a in NC, and I have many things that have not yet emerged. Hopefully, they will. BTW, if you want to see a long link that does not contain personal tidbits, just good comments, check out the one about how to get rid of Italian arum.

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)


Well, whether or not they come back l plan on buying about 6 new Cardinal flowers at the upcoming native plant sale, and judging from last year there should be an abundance of L. siphiticas emerging in the garden this year. It's good to roll with what's going on and keep enjoying the marvelous things happening in the plant world. There are a lot of really cool plants that don't have any problem coming back. I had a Dutchmans Briches plant pop up where none were ever planted and I'm thinking it came from a seed that was decades old from a time when they grew in my neighborhood before it was "developed". You are all beautiful!!!!! For Milo and Sudan!!!!!!!

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Jay 6a Chicago(5b/6a)

I can live with having to replace Cardinal flowers every year. I have had a couple Royal Catchfly plants that keep returning . I think their flower shape and color is just as stunning as CF. I live in this area where summer rainfall isn't regular creating dry periods that aren't good for CF. The Lobelia syphiltica and Silene regia can handle the drier conditions much better.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

And I've tried Silene regia umpteen times only to watch them wither and die every time on me. We all have plants that just don't do.

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