Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Giant Lobelias!

Lobelia giberroa in center right of picture

Lobelia giberroa in pot
     I have been seriously lusting after giant lobelias ever since I first learned of their existence five or six years ago.  These are plants that look totally unlike any lobelia a normal gardener has ever encountered.  They are native to alpine regions of East Africa, such as on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. If you google images for giant lobelias you will get pictures such as are found here and here.   Of course, as with many of these giant rosette type plants which are endemic to high altitudes in tropical climates (such as Espeletias, described here, from South America, the silversword plant from Haleakala on Maui, described here, and Dendrosenecios, also from East Africa, described here), seed is virtually impossible to obtain.
     So when I visited Far Reaches Farm earlier this year and Kelly casually mentioned that they had a giant lobelia--Lobelia giberroa- for sale, my heart just about stopped.  And, of course, I bought three of them.  The tag said Lobelia giberroa is from the mountain forests of Ethiopia and that the plant would get to be 5 to 8 feet tall on a single stem. If and when it flowered the flower would add an additional 6 to 10 feet of greenish white flowers to the tower.  Kelly told me that the seeds for these had been received from some alpine society collection.
     Lobelia giberroa does seem to be more available in commerce than any of the other giant lobelias, such as Lobelia deckenii and Lobelia telekii.  I notice that Annie's Annuals has offered it in the past, although they do not seem to have it available right now.  I also notice that Sivlerhill Seeds has offered it in the past,  and if you google Lobelia giberroa seeds, you will find some sources for seed such as here.
     As for successfully growing this plant in our climate, well, we shall see.  So far all has been good.  I have had these plants now for about 3 months, and based on what I have read about them online, I have been making sure they remain well- watered and fertilized.  I have been using a liquid fertilizer called Fox Farm fertilizer.  It is organic and I think it was developed to promote growth in marijuana plants, although that is just speculation on my part. In any event,  Fox Farm is definitely a good fertilizer and I would recommend it.  I fertilize with a weak solution of this every couple of weeks and the plants seem to be grateful for this. I put one of my 3 plants in a very large pot right off the bat and the other 2 were left in much smaller pots.  The one in the large pot has grown much more than the 2 in smaller pots.
     These plants are probably not hardy in our climate, so the winter time will be the challenging period in growing them.  That is why I left 2 of the plants in smaller pots--I did not want to have to move large pots into my sunroom.  I assume, based on the tropical look of these plants that they would die if I did not water them in the winter while they are in my sunroom.  Therefore, they will need much more care in the winter than I am accustomed to giving my nonhardy plants.  I am determined, however, to do what I can to help them survive.
     By the way, I noticed while researching this plant that one of my favorite blogs, Danger Garden, had a piece on giant lobelias a while ago. Here is the link.


  1. Not speculation at all on your part re:FoxFarms Linda! Every nursery and hardware store in Humboldt County carries it along with gro-lights and fiskars thinning snips.You can't go wrong !What beautiful foliage on that guy.

  2. It's official, you are now on my short list of garden idols. If only I'd visited Far Reaches when Kelly was there...and it wasn't raining like the end of the world.