En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - November 09, 2009

From: Rock Island, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Fall care for Fan Scarlet lobelia in Rock Island IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What do I do with Scarlet Fan lobelia in the fall; do I cut it back or let it go as is?

ANSWER:

This is apparently one of those occasions when a plant retailer felt that the regular name for a plant wasn't exciting enough to be a good seller. When we searched on "lobelia" in our Native Plant Database, we found 17 members of the genus Lobelia native to North America and 8 of them  native to Illinois, but none had the common name 'Scarlet Fan." So, we searched on the Internet for that name and found this Greenhouse Product News Lobelia cardinalis 'Fan Scarlet'. It turns out that it is Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower), a very nice herbaceous blooming plant native to Illinois. 

So, back to our Native Plant Database, we found these Growing Conditions for the plant:

"Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist to wet, humus-rich soil. Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Cardinal flower has very showy red blooms. It is particularly attractive at the edge of a woodland garden. The soil must be kept moist or wet at all times. A winter mulching in northern climes is beneficial. It can be propagated by bending a stem down into the mud and fastening it with a rock or sticks."

Since it is a perennial, we would recommend cutting it back to about 6 inches from the ground, marking the place where your new plants will emerge from the roots in the Spring.  This should help you identify your plant so you don't think those little green leaves coming up are weeds and yank them out. Also, notice that mulch is recommended in northern areas, which we would consider Illinois to be. 

One other thing from our Database we felt we should mention is:

"Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Toxic only if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, exhaustion and weakness, dilation of pupils, convulsions, and coma. Toxic Principle: Alkaloids lobelamine, lobeline, and others, plus a volatile oil. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)"

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia cardinalis

 

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Are there edible nettles native to the Austin, TX area?
September 13, 2011 - Are there any nettles native to this area? I would like to cook with them (if there is a good substitute, please advise). Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Source for chile pequin plants in Austin
June 11, 2013 - Where can I buy chile pequin plants in Austin? Thank you,
view the full question and answer

Project on natives in Connecticut from Chino CA
April 13, 2010 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, My 10 yr. old daughter is doing a project on Ct., and would like to know what the most common plants, trees and flowers are found in this state. A few of each would be a great ...
view the full question and answer

General information on native Fendlers sandwort (Arenaria fendeleri)
December 19, 2005 - I am trying to locate any general information on Fendler's Sandwort. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Cutting back achillea in New York
March 18, 2009 - Last summer I planted three gorgeous hearty achillea with flat, yellow tops, about 3 feet high or more each, in my sunny garden. But after they were done flowering, I left those very pretty brown stem...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center