Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
3 ratings

Wednesday - August 21, 2013

From: Wakefield, RI
Region: Northeast
Topic: Propagation, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Propagation of cardinal flower with variegated leaves from Wakefield RI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I purchased cardinal flower seeds from the Brandywine museum & have had great success for over a decade. Recently I spotted one cardinal flower with variegated leaves. Is this a plant worth propagating from cuttings or seeds? No one knows anything about variegated cardinal flowers.

ANSWER:

This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower) grows natively in Washington County, RI. Since you have already grown it for a long time there, that at least partially rules out a problem with incompatible soils causing the variegation. We looked aat all the pictures in our Image Gallery of this plant and some more online and saw no variegation, so what you have may well be unique. Here are propagation instructions from our webpage on Cardinal flower:

"Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Seed Collection: As seeds approach maturity, the capsule opens slightly at its top. Check capsules at both upper and lower portions of the stalk. Store dried, cleaned seed in a sealed, refrigerated container up to three years.
Seed Treatment: This species requires or benefits from a three month period of cold-moist stratification in the refrigerator.
Commercially Avail: yes"

Generally speaking, it is difficult to propagate a hybrid via seed; whatever the variation, it rarely breeds true. The leaves of this plant are long narrow blades, so the variegation might not be worthwhile to other gardeners. Since it is a perennial, you could try taking root cuttings and see if you can repeat the characteristic by vegetative propagation.

Your original question was whether this characteristic was worth propagating. That would be entirely up to you - if you enjoy experimenting with propagation and perhaps creating different leaf markings, that would be worth it. Whether there would be any commercial value, we couldn't possibly say.

 

From the Image Gallery


Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Short, Shady Plants for South Carolina
February 24, 2015 - I have a shady part of my mother's garden that doesn't drain very well. Do you have any suggestions as to what type of flowers or plants (preferably native to S.C.) that aren't red that might grow ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants in Denton Co. TX pollinated by bats or hummingbirds
December 07, 2011 - I am looking for a list of Denton Co. TX native plants that are pollinated by bats? Do we have any? How about hummingbirds?
view the full question and answer

Deadheading a petunia and why
July 13, 2008 - Can you please tell me the correct way to de-head a petunia and why?
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Kingsland TX
October 11, 2012 - I am looking for a list of native ground covers and grasses(not lawn grass).
view the full question and answer

Source for air plant from Warwick RI
April 23, 2012 - Would you know of any store in Rhode Island that would sell the air plant (tillandsia plant)? I've been searching around and no luck! I would appreciate the help!! Thank you and take care
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.