Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
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

Riverbank Plants for Minnesota
September 04, 2013 - I would like to stablize a steep riverbank slope along the Upper Mississippi in St. Cloud MN. The slopes are almost 1:1. We are using an open cell concrete matt in which we are going to plant native...
view the full question and answer

Sources for native plants from Austin TX
December 19, 2012 - Hello. I am currently planning a Texas native plant garden. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the seeds/bulbs/roots/plants for some of the natives at local nurseries: Indian Ricegrass (Achnatherum ...
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

Colorful flowering plants in shade of live oak in Louisiana
November 29, 2013 - What colorful flowering plants can be grown near the shady base of live oak trees in the Deep South?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a school garden in College Station TX
July 20, 2011 - I need to plant some things in my school garden. Green plants and plants with some color. Hardly ever rains here. Please give suggestions.
view the full question and answer

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