Lobelia chinensis
Common Name: Chinese creeping lobelia
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Campanulaceae
Native Range: Eastern Asia, South Africa
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 0.25 to 0.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to October
Bloom Description: Pale pink to white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Wet Soil

Culture

Best grown in rich, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Needs constant moisture. Tolerates full sun, but appreciates part afternoon shade in hot summer climates. This species thrives in very moist soil conditions, but also does surprisingly well in average garden soils as long as those soils are not permitted to dry out. Root mulch should be applied in cold winter climates such as St. Louis to protect the root system and to prevent root heaving. This lobelia has the potential to spread invasively by self-seeding and creeping stems in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Lobelia chinensis, commonly called Chinese lobelia or creeping lobelia, is a low-growing, tiny-leaved, herbaceous perennial that typically forms an attractive ground cover rising to only 2-3” tall but spreading rapidly by creeping decumbent stems to 36” wide. It is native to paddy fields, moist meadows, bogs, stream banks and among wet grasses in China, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and Malaysia. It has been introduced and has naturalized in New Jersey and Pennsylvania primarily in areas along the Delaware River where it has shown tendencies to spread invasively.

This species is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chines medicine.

Creeping stems are clad with narrow, lanceolate, green leaves (to 3/4” long). Pale pink to white, usually solitary flowers (1 1/4”across) bloom from the leaf axils from July to October. Each lobelia-like flower features two lanceolate to oblanceolate lateral lobes and three more prominent central elliptic lobes in a flattened plane. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the flowers.

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 is in reference to native habitat which includes China.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Snails and slugs may damage the foliage.

Garden Uses

Spreading ground cover for pond margins, along streams and bog gardens. Hanging pots.