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Annual Lobelia

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Charming lobelia are some of the most lushly flowered annuals. Their cute and small flowers are decorated with curious eyes, and the number of flowers covers the crown, though not solid, but a very beautiful blanket. But appreciate lobelia, first of all, for its unique palette: it is the only summer flower in which colors are limited to the white and blue spectra. The various shades of blue, ultramarine, lilac and violet are so pure and beautiful that lobelia seems almost like a blooming waterfall. There are quite a few perennials in this family, but all of them cannot compete in beauty of blooming with annual lobelia. Not without reason they are considered the first competitor of petunias!

Annual lobelia
Lobelia erinus, or Lobelia long-cell (Lobelia erinus). © Janet

The favorite among annual lobelia - Lobelia erinus

The favorite of blue flower lovers Lobelia erinus, or Lobelia longicellularis (Lobelia erinus) is the most popular species of lobelia. It is a herbaceous perennial, which is grown only in annual form: its blossoms are so lush that it depletes the plant completely and if it can be preserved, only in regions with warm winters and without blossoms in the following years. This lobelia has a crown so thick and lush that you cannot see individual shoots. Thin twigs branch densely from the very base and are densely studded with small leaves. The flowers of lobelia erynus reach only 2 cm in diameter, and only in the best varieties, but they are so numerous that you won't notice this disadvantage. Bicubic, very pretty, they sit in the axils one by one on a thin pedicel. Given the mass of leaves, the number of flowers is measured in hundreds. The coloration of lobelia erynus ranges from white to blue, blue, dark purple. The white spot in the center is characteristic of the vast majority of varieties.

Frequently Lobelia erinus, or Lobelia longicellularis, can be found under other names: Lobelia garden, or Lobelia blackberry, or Lobelia border, or Lobelia blue

Lobelia erynus flowers 2.5 months after sowing, and its flowering can be stretched until the frost. All you need to do for this is to remove the flowering shoots in time.

The variety of lobelia erynus knows no limits. The basic species is divided into 5 ornamental forms:

  1. Spreading lobelia diffusa stands about 15 cm tall with twice as long shoots.
  2. Lobelia pendula form with more than thirty-centimeter shoots.
  3. Lobelia erecta, or erecta colonnata, up to 40cm high.
  4. The dwarf pumila forms about 10cm high.
  5. The compacta forms up to 15cm high, similar to dense hemispheres.

And each form has its merits. It is better to choose between them on the basis of the use of lobelia and its desired ornamental value.

Annual lobelia
Lobelia erinus, or Lobelia longicellularis (Lobelia erinus). © Shihmei Barger

The best varieties of lobelia erinus include:

  • The 'Blauer Edelstein' variety is compact, dark green, with cornflower flowers that bloom in stunning numbers;
  • The 'Schneeball' variety is white with a creamy hue, small flowers and improved branching;
  • The 'Kristallpallas' variety with dark blue flowers and dark leaves with an inky-purple cast;
  • The 'String of Pearls' variety - a mixture of lobelias with a low height and shining variety of colors;
  • The 'Kaiser Wilhelm' variety with the unique blue color, the analogue of which you can only find in gentians and with a very small, but very light green;
  • The 'White Lady' variety - the best of snow-white lobelias;
  • Grade 'Cascade Mixed' - a mixture of ampelia lobelias with the most varied colors from white to pink and blue;
  • Grade 'Riviera Lilac' with a light lilac-pink color;
  • The 'Half Moon' variety with contrasting white spot, extra early blooming and rare corolla blue coloration;
  • The 'Riviera Sky Blue' variety with sky blue flowers and tall powerful bushes;
  • The 'Reggata Rose' variety with crimson tone of pink coloration;
  • The 'Reggata Sky Blue' variety with charming scattering of sky blue flowers.

Other annual lobelia

Ampelia is a form specially bred for growing in hanging baskets. This hybrid has stiff shoots, dense greenery and a surprisingly graceful and lush crown. During flowering, ampelia lobelia resemble clouds in bloom.

Lobelia thin ( Lobelia tenuior ) is an exquisite and somewhat wild looking plant that does not form such perfect bushings, but is charming in its own way. The slender plant is about 30 cm tall and is adorned with blue, occasionally lilac two inch flowers. Perfect for landscape design.

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Annual lobelia
Lobelia tenuior. © Mark Brundrett

Lobelia strong ( Lobelia valida ) is a stunted and rather rare species. Reaching a maximum of 40 cm, it resembles lobelia erinus in appearance, though with a less neat and perfect bush. The upright shoots and strikingly dense and succulent foliage of this African beauty is a perfect backdrop for its large flowers. Blue and purple, they are adorned with a shining white spot and appear almost twice as large as the lobelia erinus.

Annual lobelia
Lobelia strong (Lobelia valida). © Andrew massyn

Lobelia beautiful (Lobelia x speciosa) is not like other annual lobelia. But this is because it is grown in several forms - seasonal and perennial. This is explained by the fact that the plant has and individual varieties that require early sowing, not frost-resistant, and quite different, quite hardy forms. The beautiful lobelia blooms in August only if sown in March-April, and a later planting does not allow you to enjoy blossoming in regions with harsh winters. That's why in the middle zone it is better to grow this lobelia as a seedling summer plant, sowing seeds in January-February.

This magnificent and very lush plant up to 80-90 cm in height, with beautiful bright and dense foliage and candle-shaped inflorescences. They are lacy, translucent, and consist of brightly colored pink and red large, fancifully shaped "spongy" flowers. The best cultivars are the pink-purple-red 'Compliment' and 'Fan Series Mixed'.

Annual lobelia
Lobelia beautiful (Lobelia x speciosa). © growingcolors

Actively use lobelia in landscape design:

  • to embellish flowerbeds of summers;
  • to fill voids and set accents in flowerbeds and rabat;
  • in ampelas and stone flowerbeds;
  • in borders and for decoration of bed edges;
  • in mixed container compositions and mini-flowers;
  • for decoration of window and balcony boxes;
  • as a groundcover.

Cultivation of lobelia

Lobelia summerhouses are plants not only rather fast blooming, but also very not capricious. It is not at all difficult to grow them if you give them comfortable conditions.

Annual lobelias are grown with maximum protection from the cold. They can be planted in the garden only after the threat of even light night frosts has disappeared. Harden young seedlings should start early, gradually: the seedlings that have undergone acclimatization are able to withstand zero degrees and even frost up to minus 2 degrees. But stronger colds are destructive for lobelia.

The most important thing is to provide the crumbs with as bright light as possible. The warmest and sunniest sites for lobelia will ensure an abundance of flowers and no problems with diseases and pests. Many modern varieties and new hybrids are able to grow in the penumbra and even in the shade, and it is better to clarify the lighting parameters when buying seedlings or seeds.

Primer for lobelia is very easy to choose. Loamy or sandy loam soil, the most common garden soil with "average" characteristics will suit them perfectly. The only thing is that the soil should be loose, well permeable to water and air. Note that lobelia do not like an excess of anything, including nutrients: the soil should be ordinary, but not too fertile, and better - even sparse. With an excessive amount of nutrients, especially organics and nitrogen, lobelia grow a thick, stunningly beautiful crown, but very poorly bloom.

Annual lobelia
Lobelia in a hanging cachet. © danziger

Lobelia care

The hardest thing about growing lobelias is to keep the soil constantly moist. Lobelia are not afraid of droughts, but they quickly lose the shape of bushes and instantly stop flowering. They will not be able to recover and will look like an ordinary, unremarkable culture with sparse flowers and curved, elongated shoots. Therefore, watering should be paid increased attention. The roots and substrate must not be allowed to dry out completely, even for 1-2 days, so watering lobelia should be frequent and abundant. It is better to drain the water from the tray after watering than underwatering. Watering is equally necessary for both potted and planted in open soil lobelias.

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Fertilizers for lobelias are carried out in accordance with the plants' not too great love for nutritious soils. Fertilizers are applied periodically, along with abundant watering, just to maintain stable soil characteristics. Usually for lobelia, fertilization is carried out half as often as for other summer plants - once every 2 weeks or weekly, but with reduced doses.

For beauty and lush flowering, lobelias need pruning. The whole point is that lobelias bloom in waves and need help to keep them blooming profusely at all times. In lobelia, remove the shoots that have already finished flowering by cutting them to a height of about 5 cm. This summerberry is very fast and actively builds up new greenery and the next wave of flowering comes literally in a matter of days. But do not be in a hurry to prune: in many new varieties the second wave begins independently without stimulation, and if your lobelia shows no signs of ending flowering and is showing tirelessly a blanket of flowers, then there is no point in pruning it. Observe the plant and it will show you the best strategy. If the shape of the bush is important to you and some shoots are sticking out of the crown, it is better to prune the tops and thus stimulate the thickening of the bush. If they are surrounded by infected plants or you have allowed the soil to become waterlogged, the plant is severely damaged, it is better not to fight the source of infection, but simply destroy the entire plant and replace it with a new one.

Annual lobelia
Lobelia erinus, or Lobelia longicellular (Lobelia erinus). © pacificgreenlandscape

Growing lobelia from seeds

Lobelia in the conditions of the average strip can be obtained only by one method - from seeds. Sowing in the open ground is not suitable for them, and you can only use the seedling method. Not all varieties of lobelia retain their characteristics with such propagation, sometimes you can preserve the color and size of flowers only by cuttings. But for this you need to preserve the mother bush for the winter, and the rooting process itself is not too simple.

Propagating lobelia seeds:

Seeds for seedlings are sown in February, March, in the extreme - in the first half of April. For germination, they need heat: air temperature from 20 degrees Celsius - and bright light. The seeds are simply scattered on the soil surface and are not covered with substrate. For lobelia, it is important to maintain constant soil moisture. Germination for this plant usually takes two weeks.

Complications with independent cultivation of seedlings are mainly connected with the fact that lobelia need to be moved to cooler conditions - with air temperature from 10 to 15 degrees immediately after sprouting. As soon as the seedlings grow to 2.5 cm in height, they must be pruned. Prickling is carried out in a month or later after planting, plants are not planted individually, and several pieces in one pot. The first feeding is carried out two weeks after picking.

Transplant to open soil or plant in pots for terraces and balconies lobelia can be only after the threat of frost has disappeared and the long hardening. Transplanting only from the second half of May.