Lobelia cardinalis 'Fried Green Tomatoes'

Common Name: cardinal flower 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Campanulaceae
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Tomato red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Wet Soil


Easily grown in rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Needs constant moisture. Tolerates brief flooding. Soils should never be allowed to dry out. Will tolerate full sun in cool, northern climates, but otherwise appreciates part shade. Root mulch should be applied in cold winter climates to protect the root system and to prevent root heaving. Mulch will also help retain soil moisture.

'Fried Green Tomatoes' is a patented cultivar which will not come true from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lobelia cardinalis, commonly called cardinal flower is a Missouri native perennial which typically grows in moist locations along streams, sloughs, springs, swamps and in low wooded areas. A somewhat short-lived, clump-forming perennial which features erect, terminal spikes (racemes) of large, cardinal red flowers on unbranched, alternate-leafed stalks rising typically to a height of 2-3' (infrequently to 4'). Tubular flowers are 2-lipped, with the three lobes of the lower lip appearing more prominent than the two lobes of the upper lip. Finely-toothed, lance-shaped, dark green leaves (to 4" long). Late summer bloom period. Flowers are very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, but not cardinals. White and rose colored forms are also known.

Genus name honors Matthias de l'Obel (1538-1616), French physician and botanist, who with Pierre Pena wrote Stirpium Adversaria Nova (1570) which detailed a new plant classification system based upon leaves.

Specific epithet means scarlet or cardinal red.

Common name is in reference to the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.

'Fried Green Tomatoes' is a patented cultivar which primarily differs from the species by having deep purple foliage in spring and tomato-red flowers. Purple narrow-ovate leaves appear in a basal rosette in spring. As summer progresses, the leaves gradually turn olive green with purple highlights, but retain more consistent purple-red color underneath. Dark flower stems rise from the rosettes in July bearing showy, terminal, bracteate spikes (8-12" long) of tubular tomato-red flowers. U.S. Plant Patent PP21,958 was issued on May 31, 2011.


No serious insect or disease problems. Snails and slugs may damage the foliage. Some hybrid lobelias have not performed well at the Kemper Center in St. Louis for reasons that at this point are unclear. Foliage contains alkaloids which are very toxic to humans if ingested.


Effective in moist areas of woodland/shade gardens, wet meadows or along streams or ponds. Water gardens. Rain garden. Also adds late summer bloom and height to borders as long as soils are kept uniformly moist.