March – Lobelia in shades of white, lilac and blue
What’s not to love about Lobelia? It is a hassle free and exceptionally rewarding little plant. If it is “flower power” you are after then Lobelia is the ticket. Although not considered to be a primary crop it is an essential companion to any bed, basket or container. It is the final touch to any display and helps to complete the overall look.
Lobelia is part of the Campanulaceae family and has over 300 species. The most common species in our gardens is Lobelia erinus. L. erinus is native to southern Africa and thrives in varying climates and topographies. Although optimal conditions are always encouraged, you will often find Lobelia growing out the side of a wall, in a crack on the pavement and yes even on a sand dune. Tenacious springs to mind. In the sub tropical regions of South Africa, Lobelia can be used as a perennial however in the frost regions it is grown and used as an annual as it only survives from spring through to autumn.
Lobelia is herbaceous, maturing at approximately 15-20cm in height and 20-25cm in width. The stems, leaves and flowers have a fine, delicate texture but the plant as a whole is of a thick density. The flowers are comprised of five petals: the three lower petals are much larger and wider than the two upper petals, which are very narrow, pointed and held closely together. The leaves are long and oval in shape and slightly serrated.
With Lobelia’s more trailing habit, it makes a particularly good filler for hanging baskets and pots. In flower beds it creates a beautiful, soft edging. Planted en masse, Lobelia makes a striking statement. Although the colours are predominantly blue – purple, midnight blue, mid-blue, sky blue – you will also find rose, lilac, pink and white in the palette. Some are solid colours but most have a little white eye and in the darker colours it is wonderfully contrasting. The foliage colour ranges from a dark bronze to bright green, depending on the variety.
Lobelia should be planted in full morning sun as they appreciate a little afternoon shade. They prefer soil that is rich in organic matter so it is important that you add compost to the soil before planting. Keep the soil moist but not sodden and pay particular attention to watering if in pots or baskets. Lobelia do not like to get thirsty!
So in conclusion, if you have not already reached for your purse and keys with the sole purpose of marching into your local garden centre to grab a few trays of lover-ly Lobelia, what are you waiting for? This little plant does not disappoint – hesitate no more, go forth and buy, buy, buy!
Did You Know?
Lobelia is named after Mathias de l'Obel, a 16th century Flemish botanist?