Everyone knows what a cardinal bird is however what about a cardinal flower? It is a wonderful red flower that likes moist soil and is alluring to all neighborhood butterflies. If you are seeking a butterfly garden, this is the flowering plant for you.

What is Cardinal Flower?

Cardinal flowers get its name from the Catholic Church since the red flowers remind people of the red robes that were worn by cardinals. Either Catholic or not catholic, this flower is gorgeous and alluring to not only hummingbirds but also people. This flower is native to the states east of the Mississippi in the United States. Although they are usually red in color, sometimes there are natural white flowers also. It just depends on the flower and the environment that it is located. There are also hybrids of the cardinal flower however the fantastic red color has stuck intact. In fact, in 1940 this flower won first place in Moldenke’s poll of North American naturalists and botanists for its vibrant red color being the showiest and most interesting wild herbaceous plant. It is quite an honor to have this plant in your garden, not only if you are Catholic, however just to see the red flowers.

When does a Cardinal Flower Bloom?

The plant blooms un-branched slender spikes called racemes that are covered with red flower in or around July to October in moist areas. They are commonly seen in ditches, in wet meadows, along streams and now in flowering gardens.

Where should you plant a Cardinal Flower?

To choose a location that these flowers will grow successfully, try to find a location that is moist, rich, light, and slightly acid soil. We have placed a few of these wildflowers under our pine trees in our backyard and have loved the temperature and moist climate, not to mention the slightly acidic soil. Our neighbors though have a few placed in a full sun location and they are successful with just a daily watering. At times of drought, try to water twice a day to assure they have enough water. We have also tried placing them in a container on our back porch and they lived without problems for a few weeks. We could not decide where to place them at first, so we just placed them in terra cotta containers that were then set on trays with water in them. It worked perfectly and the flowers bloomed right on time!

It is important not to use mulch though since the roots can mold and rot in the moist conditions. Even throughout winter months, even in the snow, never to place mulch around the plant as it will make more issues than without. It is also important not to place rich potting soil around the roots. The rich soil will have too much nitrogen and will replace the acid levels that were already in the natural soil. Just plant the new plant seeds in the ground under a thin layer of fine soil. The seeds will germinate in around 7 to 14 days time without any effort taken by the gardener, unless a daily watering is needed here and there.

Natural Flower

Since the cardinal flower is a natural flower, they will naturally reseed. It is important though if you want to really fill in the area that has been chosen for this plant to catch the seeds before blowing in the wind. The seeds will be noticeable around the bloom. Each brown seed will crack open and tens of seeds will appear inside that one seed. It is important to thicken the group of flowers in your area to catch these seeds before they blow area in the wind. The seeds will germinate naturally however to keep them concealed to one location, you need to germinate them yourself. Once you have the seeds, place them in an airtight container and place in a cold basement or refrigerator for around two months. After the two months, the seeds can be placed in ground under a thin layer of soil. Remember to do this around August to make sure the seeds have enough time to germinate before the frost comes.

How high does it grow?

These wonderful cardinal flowers will grow to a height of two feet for a wild variety and four feet for a hybrid variety in any garden. I have noticed though that my flowers that are grown under the pine trees are slightly taller than the ones that are in the neighbors who continue to keep them in full sun instead of shade. They tolerate a lot of wind and cold months in the northern states.


These flowers are perfect for new gardeners if you want to have a butterfly garden or for locations that are moist and need a little brightening up with red!

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