Mexican Cardinal Flower

Mexican cardinal flower (Lobelia laxiflora)

Mexican cardinal flower (Lobelia laxiflora)

Q: Could you tell me something about Rosa bracteata “Mermaid”? I want to know if it will grow in the Valley.
— Gladys Pepper, Van Nuys
A: This is a truly special rose as long as it has enough room to grow. It is outstanding both as a climber (up to 50 feet tall) and as a fast-growing ground cover. It has exceptional disease resistance as well as lush, impeccable foliage and a nonstop flowering habit during the summer months.
Buds are lemon yellow opening up to giant, mildly fragrant whitish-yellow blooms, each of which surrounds a mass of large, distinctive, golden stamens.
“Mermaid” flowers can reach 5 inches in diameter, which, together with its carefree growth habit, make this rose a highly romantic garden subject. “Mermaid” will flower in both full sun and light shade.
Q: I have planted Lobelia laxiflora and it wants to take over my garden. Is there any way I can contain this plant without killing it altogether?
— Roger Burns, Toluca Lake
A: When people think of lobelia, a small, billowing plant with dark, electric blue flowers probably comes to mind. This most common lobelia is used for flower bed borders and in containers and hanging baskets as well.
However, there is another lobelia, a perennial called Lobelia laxiflora, that is worth contemplating for certain planting situations. Sometimes called Mexican lobelia, this is a rapidly growing ground cover with orange-red flowers that blooms all summer long with a bare minimum of water.
Mexican lobelia is an excellent “spillover” plant, one of the best candidates for planting above a retaining wall that you would like to cover with flowers. But it grows quickly and sends up shoots a considerable distance away from the mother plant. Weekly maintenance is required to keep it in bounds.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Vinca Major, the ground cover with blue periwinkle flowers grown in partial sun or shade, is susceptible to spider mites and diseases when allowed to grow unchecked. To prevent pest problems, severely thin out or cut back your Vinca once a year.

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