Cardinal Flower is a herbaceous perennial that may grow 4 to 5 feet tall. It is easily grown in rich, medium to wet soil in full sun to part shade. The soil should never be allowed to dry out, and It will tolerate brief flooding. Although it will tolerate full sun in northern climates, it appreciates partial afternoon shade in hot summer climates of the lower Midwest and South. Root mulch should be applied in cold winter climates to protect the root system and to prevent root heaving. Mulch will also help retain soil moisture.
The leaves are alternate with a toothed margin. Brilliant red blooms first mature in late summer and continue into mid-fall. The showy flowers begin opening at the bottom of a terminal flower spike and continue to the top.
This plant is effective in moist areas of woodland/shade gardens, wet meadows, or along streams or ponds. Also water gardens and rain gardens. It also adds late summer bloom and height to borders as long as the soil is kept uniformly moist.
This plant was selected as the 1982, 1983 and 2001 NC Wildflower of the Year, a program managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden