Lobelia tupa

Lobelia tupa is one of our star plants with its 8ft stems clothed in bright red flowers from July to November. It comes from Peru where it grows on sandy coastlines. It is hardy with us in a sheltered spot.  Like all Lobelia it is quite toxic if eaten and in its native land it is called "Devil's Tobacco" because the leaves are dried and smoked to induce toxin-induced nightmare hallucinations - it is really quite nastily toxin, so don't try it! Poisonous plants aren't something to shun provided you treat them with care. Many popular garden plants are quite toxic, e.g. Daffodils and Aquilegia (Granny's Bonnet). I always wash my hands well after handling plants and cover cuts and scratches before gardening.

It has been growing nicely in our garden for about 8 years now and is really hardy once established.  The key is getting it through that first winter and this is true of many so called tender plants.  My tactic was to cover it with a few boughs off of the Christmas tree in early January for the first couple of winters. Now I just leave the old foliage on through the winter. I've found it difficult to divide so we save seed which makes a good sized plant by the end of June. Not every flower sets seed so you have to search through each pod looking for the ones filled with the tiny black seeds. But beware, we've found that the dust that comes off the dead leaves and stems can irritate the throat and lungs so perhaps a face mask is advisable.

August 25th: Perennial Lobelias are looking good- this is Tania in our garden. Personally I ignore the received wisdom to plant them in moist to wet places and I find they do very well indeed in dry ground and are far better at surviving the winter when they have good drainage. However, one gardener told me they grow lobelia cardinalis as a pond marginal and leave it in the pond all year. Other tell me they lose them in ponds over winter. It just goes to show that every garden is different and there's no substitute for experimenting and learning about your own patch.

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