Lobelia cardinalis, or cardinal flower, is one of our most beautiful native plants, and a true hummingbird magnet. This patch of cardinal flower came from a single plant I started indoors from seed several years ago. I planted my original seedling near a downspout, since cardinal flowers love water. They flower in their second year, after spending the first year as a rosette growing low to the ground.
My lone plant, when it bloomed, was unusually tall and robust -- a small shrub. The next year, a few plants seeded themselves in the front yard. This year the original plant has been replaced by many offspring -- a little jungle of cardinal flowers. It probably didn't hurt that I sprinkled seed from the parent plant liberally. Plus this year's plants must have loved our rainy spring. They have withstood our dry summer surprisingly well, with little supplemental water. These beautiful plants and the beautiful little bird they attract, are one of the great joys of my summer garden.
Although in past years I’ve had occasional hummingbird visits, this year one bird has practically taken up residence in the yard. (She is a female or possibly a juvenile; no red on her throat.) Every time I pass the window or step outside I’m on the lookout, and often I’m rewarded. She hovers around the rose-of-sharon, perches on the scarlet runner beans, flits around the black-eyed susans. Most often, though, she’s sipping from the blossoms in the cardinal flower patch. Quite simply, I’m thrilled by the sight every time.
About the Author: Rachel Shaw gardens in Rockville, MD and blogs at http://www.hummingbirdway.blogspot.com/. Rachel is on the Washington Gardener Magazine's Volunteer Reader Panel, a group of readers that review books for the magazine, tests products, gives content feedback, amd much more.