Tuesday, August 6, 2013

For the Last Time — Lobelia

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The third time's a charm, they say.  Well, I say, not quite.  It remains to be seen.  When I first started gardening in earnest, I wanted to grow it all and that included one of Ohio's native wildflowers, Lobelia cardinalis.  It's a tricky one, it turns out.

I first saw it in person during a 2006 visit to GardenFair, held at Winterthur in Delaware, that great estate of the du Pont's.  In the Quarry Garden, the lobelia was in full bloom and its bright red color was stunning.  I wanted some of that.

It wasn't difficult to find lobelia to buy, but I only purchased one plant and it went into our shade garden near the house.  I don't think that one even lasted one season.  A couple of years later, I purchased some blue lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica) and it met a similar fate.

Then I was advised that lobelia likes to grow in clumps and if you want to successfully grow it, you'd better plant at least three together.  This spring, I saw some beautiful plants at Oak Park Landscape and Water Garden Center and couldn't resist trying again.

Lobelia likes it wet and though my shade garden isn't overly so, this was a good year to grow plants that like moisture.  We've had unusually regular rains so if ever I was going to have success growing lobelia, this was the year.  But I didn't count on the slugs.

Here's my lobelia, with its stems chewed all to heck by what I'm guessing are those darn slugs.

Unfortunately, I didn't notice it until they'd done a fair amount of damage. The three plants were doing pretty well but I lost two stems before I decided to take action by putting sand around the base of the plants.  Hopefully it's not too late to save them.

And bless it's little heart, it's trying to bloom in spite of its injuries...

If I lose my lobelia this time, I'm done.  I'll just have to admire it in someone else's garden.


Alison said...

I have mine planted in the lowest spot in my garden, where all the water drains to. You would think that moisture-loving plants would all thrive here in the PNW no matter where you place them, but of course our summers are dry, which is when they bloom. They're so gorgeous, I hope the slugs leave it alone. Have you tried Sluggo? Or eggshells? If I had one plant that they tormented even more than others, I'd protect it with a ring of copper.

Good luck with your Lobelia.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a difficult plant for me to grow too Kylee. I have tried several times with no luck. I had never heard of the clump theory. The first time I tried though I had three of them in close proximity. The other times I have tried I did onesies due to not knowing where it will grow here. I have seen them on stream banks that are seasonally flooded and then get dry as a bone so one would think one could get it to grow...yet not me. Good luck with yours. Maybe this wet season will allow it to get established.

Jean said...

I have had problems growing it too. One year or two it grew pretty well and then I decided to move it to a damper spot. If there is such a place on my wooded hill. Something promptly sat on it until it was flat to the ground and that was the end of that. Got another this year...and something ate it to the ground. I cannot grow this red nor can I grow the coveted blue either so I will just be like you and admire it from afar.

plantingoaks said...

My experience with lobelia is that it does very much like water, but saying it likes shade is rather wishful thinking. It may grow there (with enough water in the summer) but really wants part sun, and might even like full sun more than full shade, again, assuming it has enough water

Unknown said...

Very interesting about the lobelia challenges, Kylee. I wonder if it likes it a little cooler than you get? Of course the slugs are a definite hassle, but I don't remember slug damage on mine. I don't currently have any because, well, starting from scratch meant only getting so many plants this year to trial, and lobelia wasn't high on my list of must haves. I used to have great patches of L. siphilitica, so I will miss that but have other blues that like it drier (I am on high and relatively well drained ground, what a change!) See you next week at Quebec City?

Kylee Baumle said...

Alison ~I've placed sand around its base. That seems to work for the hostas, so hopefully it will work with this, too!

Lisa ~ I figured if there was any year it would do well, it would be this one! And I think it would have been fine had it not been for the slugs. :-(

Jean ~ Glad to know I'm not alone!

plantingoaks ~ Well, it's not a full shade area where I have it. It does get some sun later in the day, around 3:00-4:00 until sundown. The plants were looking healthy and good until this slug thing.

Jodi ~ This is a native plant for us! You'd think it would be one of the easier things to grow, but no...and apparently I'm not alone.

Sadly, I won't be in Quebec City. :-( I went to the Bloggers Fling in San Francisco in June and I just couldn't afford both trips in the same summer. I was SO looking forward to FINALLY meeting you, too!

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