Attract More Butterflies with Cardinal Flowers

Native cardinal flower is great for a butterfly garden with moist soil. This wildflower also attracts hummingbirds!

Looking for an interesting native wildflower with striking color and the ability to attract butterflies and hummingbirds? Cardinal Flower might be the answer, though it doesn’t work for every location. If you can provide good wet soil and a little afternoon shade, though, the spikes of Cardinal Flower will reward you by drawing ruby-throated hummingbirds and large swallowtails to your butterfly garden.

Cardinal Flowers in the Butterfly Garden

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is native to the Eastern U.S., where it grows it wet woodlands. The flower spikes can reach 4 feet tall, and re-bloom throughout the summer especially when spent spikes are trimmed back to encourage new growth. It does need wet soil to thrive, so if you have a soggy spot in the yard, or are looking to plant something along the edge of a backyard pond, this is a great solution. Cardinal Flower is a short-lived perennial. It spreads by basal rosettes at the base of the plant, which can be divided every few years, and also by seed.

Cardinal Flowers in the Butterfly Garden

Cardinal Flower’s counterpart is Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), and the two are very eye-catching when planted together. If you’re looking to attract hummingbirds, though, Cardinal Flower is your best bet – this plant is actually pollinated by those flying beauties!

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.