FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Lobelia cardinalis ‘New Moon Maroon’ is a clump forming cultivar of a favorite perennial wildflower. Foliage is lance shaped with a unique red-purple color. In late summer stems are topped by spiky racemes of vibrant scarlet florets. The blooms are irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies. Plants prosper in filtered shade with moist soils or in wetter sunny sites.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species occurs in New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec. The range extends through most of the United States.
Lobelia cardinalis is indigenous to wet prairies, openings in bottomland forests, wet meadows, sandy or gravelly seeps, edges of ponds, creeks or ditches and borders of marshes, sloughs or swamps.
‘New Moon Maroon’ is a cultivar was selected by James Brown and introduced by his New Moon Nursery in 2014. It is described as an improvement of the cultivar ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’. Plants have a robust habit that is similar to ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’. Leaves are a deeper maroon shade and the color persists through the growing season.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Lobelia cardinalis ‘New Moon Maroon’ is a tap rooted clumping perennial that forms robust purplish winter rosettes. In spring many upright unbranched stems rise from a crown that occurs at ground level.
The stems are clothed in oblong to lance shaped toothed leaves. The lustrous maroon blades are up to 6” long.
In late summer foliage is topped by spires of firey red florets. The florets are tubular with a two lobed upper lip and a prominent three lobed lower lip.
The floral display lasts for 4-6 weeks ending in early autumn. The maroon foliage provides a lovely background.
Ruby throated hummingbirds flock to the blooms along with swallowtail and sulfur butterflies.
Plants are 2-4’ tall with a 1-2’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Lobelia cardinalis ‘New Moon Maroon’ prospers in shaded to partly sunny exposures with moist humus rich soil. Plants tolerate sunny sites if sufficient moisture is present.
Plants develop more intense leaf color in brighter exposures. In dense shade the hue becomes olive green with bronzy highlights.
After bloom, the flowering stem and its roots die. New offsets soon form and generate their own roots. The small offsets are vulnerable in fall and winter and care should be taken not to bury them under thick mulch layers.
Foliage is generally unpalatable to deer and other herbivores but is chewed by snails and slugs.
LANDSCAPE USES: This species is often used as an Accent, Grouping or Mass planting in for a Rain Garden, Wildlife Garden or Perennial Border. Lobelia cardinalis ‘New Moon Maroon’ has Showy Blooms and Winter Interest and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings and margins of Water Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Lobelia cardinalis ‘New Moon Maroon’ with Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet', Anemone canadensis, Carex comosa, Chelone glabra, Eupatorium coelestinum or Osmunda cinnamomea.
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red' grows in similar circumstances and also adds unique purplish foliage to the garden. Lobelia cardinalis could also be substituted but foliage would be green rather than maroon.
TRIVIA: This species is a member of the Bellflower Family.