"Scarlet is glorified in the flaming robe of the cardinal-flower."
-Henry Van Dyke
'Complement Deep Red' or 'Scarlet Compliment' is the marketing name of this hybrid cardinal flower, a cross of Lobelia cardinalis x siphilitica x fulgens, developed by the Ernst Benary Seed Company in Germany.
The Compliment series is especially reliable & floriferous. Besides the deep red it is also available as Compliment Blue (or Violet) & Compliment Pink. I think the deep red is by far the best one & hummingbirds agree. They're available as pot perennials so you can hand-select colors in bloom, or in packets of seeds for mixed colors.
The brilliantly red flower stalks stand three feet tall rising above light green foliage. It'll bloom July to September with spent flowers cut out to keep it going. It's excellent for bouquets.
Suited to zones four through nine, below Zone 7 it must be grown as an annual. Hybrid lobelias are perfect for our area, Zone 8, where they perennialize reliably.
Rich moist soil is best. They want full sun or when grown further south, just a little shade. It has a wetlands heritage & does not like drought. It can be grown in an outright bog garden & be a very happy plant with water no higher than the top of the root crown. But it does not require boggy conditions & does just as well in persistently moist well draining soil. It's not otherwise picky about soil conditions, though neutral to rich acidic soil is preferred.
Cardinal flowers have been used as traditional herbal medicines, but their alkaloids can be toxic, hence sometimes called Pukeweeds since their internal use can make you puke.
As an herbal suppliment it is one of the most dangerous to be had. It is especially apt to harm children & the aged, anyone with lung or heart disease or asthma, & can cause fainting, coma, or death. So off hand I wouldn't recommend it. See also the Lobelia x speciosa 'Fan Burgundy' page for further discussion.
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