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Lobelias in new colors, lobelias that trail or stand upright.

Lobelias in new colors, lobelias that trail or stand upright

Edging a border or cascading out of a container, few plants can match annual lobelia (L. erinus) for versatility and long-lasting bloom, from summer till frost. Gardeners are rediscovering the virtues of this old-fashioned plant. Nurseries used to restrict their offerings to the white and blue varieties; now many offer other colors, including purple, rose, and red.

The traditional upright varieties grow in compact mounds 4 to 6 inches high and are smothered with 3/4-inch blooms. Cascading lobelias are especially attractive in window boxes or containers; stems trail 12 inches or slightly longer.

Upright lobelias

For an intense dark blue with dark, bronzy foliage, try widely available 'Crystal Palace'. A new variety, 'Blue Moon' offers blue flowers that are almost as vivid; foliage is a bright green. For a similar color, but with a white eye in each bloom, consider 'Mrs. Clibran'. Plants of these last two may be difficult to find, but you can order seed by mail (see below).

'Cambridge Blue' produces a softer sky-blue flower. 'Emperor William' is a slightly more intense medium blue.

'Rosamond' has carmine blooms with white centers.

Cascading forms

Two old-time favorites are 'Blue Cascade', with medium blue flowers, and 'Red Cascade', with purplish red blooms. Two newcomers in this series are 'White Cascade', with pure white blooms, and 'Ruby Cascade', an almost pure red with a hint of purple.

Another popular trailing variety, 'Sapphire' has deep blue blossoms and is generally available at nurseries.

Beginning with seeds

Starting lobelia from seed requires considerable patience, since seeds are slow to germinate (15 to 20 days), and you may not have seedlings large enough to plant outdoors until two months from sowing.

In mild climates, you can continue planting lobelia through late spring and into summer. Where seasons are short, try to get them into the garden as early as possible, once danger of frost is past. Plants will self-sow if conditions suit them.

Plant lobelias in moist, rich soil. In hottest areas they need partial shade, but in mild coastal climates they'll take full sun.

If your nursery doesn't have the seeds or plants you want, check a mail-order catalog. Most offer several varieties of lobelia. All of the varieties mentioned here are available from Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527 (write for a free catalog).

Photo: Masses of tiny flowers of 'Crystal Palace' lobelia form frothy border for marigolds, statice, and strawflowers
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Apr 1, 1988
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