Oklahoma Marginal Aquatic Plant Spotlight: Cardinal Flower
The herbaceous plant known as cardinal flowers provide innumerable benefits to pond owners who are wise enough to stock it. It is a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies, and its bright red coloration makes it an outstanding focal point for the landscape.
Characteristics of Cardinal Flower Plant
Cardinal flowers emerge as clumps which are between 2’ and 4’ tall with a one foot diameter. The leaves or stems typically display a tint of purple. During winter they will appear in the form of a basal style rosette with between five and seven leaves that have an elliptical shape. By spring they will generate stems which are un-branched with miniature leaves and during summer they will bloom with flowers that are scarlet colored.
How To Place Them In Your Pond
Newly purchased cardinal plants will need time to acclimate to their new environment. They are usually sold in bundles, and when first purchased may not seem lush but with time and sufficient care they will achieve this. They should be positioned within pond plant shelves, inside containers that have media in them for aquatic plants. You will need to put the correct fertilizer tablets inside the container’s bottom half and then cover them, afterward filling up the plant media about two thirds towards the top.
The plant should be added to the container’s center, with roots extending into the media. Now take some additional plant media and use it to cover up the roots. The cardinal plant’s crown, which connects to the stem and roots, should be approximately 1” beneath the plant media surface for optimal results. Don’t use potting mix which is bagged or other soils which are light in weight since they might float and turn the pond water cloudy.
Once the plant is established we recommend taking the plant out of the pot and wedging it between the rocks and covering with gravel.
Fertilization And Care
When cardinal flowers are regularly fertilized they will grow abundantly throughout the seasons. This is accomplished by taking fertilizer tablets and then pushing them inside the soil between April and September. Additionally, the flowers and leaves should be pruned once they turn brown or yellow and discarded so that extra organic material does not accumulate in the vicinity.
Since the cardinal flower is a bog plant, it is best propagated through splitting its root system which is fibrous every three years to produce a bloom stream which is continuous. Both the stems and leaves will succumb once winter approaches, and when positioned in a spot that is boggy, the plants are best left alone once dead foliage has been trimmed above the water’s surface.
Tim Trammell has been building, designing, servicing and maintaining pond in the Oklahoma City Metro area for over 20 years. His company Continental Ponds, is Oklahoma's first Master Certified Aquascape Contractor and is an national award winning pond and water feature builder.