Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lobelia Tupa

Lobelia tupa in front of Eucalyptus glaucescens
   As I said I would a couple of days ago, I am going to tell about my experience growing Lobelia tupa.  This is one of my top 10 favorite plants and I have it planted in many places in my garden.  It is deer resistant and drought tolerant so it is a great plant for my front border. It is also beloved by hummingbirds and it blooms at a time of the year when many other perennials are past their prime.
     I first got this plant many years ago from Heronswood and it was described as being marginally hardy.  At that time I had no idea what to do with it or how to grow it and the only lobelias I had had experience with were the kind of more common lobelias that liked moist soil and that tended to flop around.  Therefore, the first couple of years I grew it, it didn't do much, probably because I didn't put it in the right place.  I only got the hang of it when I saw a slide at a garden talk that showed a huge plant of this growing out in the open in an arid landscape.  So that clued me in to the fact that this is a drought tolerant plant, that it will get very large and that it is not a plant to crowd into a small spot.  Full sun is also what it likes. 
     I have now been growing this for more than 15 years, and the oldest clumps I have are almost that old.  As I said, Lobelia tupa will become very large, with my biggest clumps being probably 6 feet in diameter.  The plant can also get quite tall, with the flower spikes in excess of 6 feet.  Fortunately, if you grow this plant out in the open, it does not need staking.
     Established clumps sometimes send out runners with new plants coming up several feet from the mother plant.  These can be dug up and moved if you so desire.  I have also had self sown seedlings in the garden.  Indeed, the clumps against my blue wall seeded themselves extensively this year, so now I have lots of babies to put elsewhere in the garden. At first I didn't realize that all the weedy looking things around those plants were seedlings because they looked so much like all other common weeds.  So if you want seedlings, be careful in weeding around established plants because it is not easy to tell seedlings from weeds at first.
     Although Lobelia tupa has a reputation for being marginally hardy, I have not found this to be the case.  I never protect my plants and they have never died from the cold.
     Lobelia tupa is now available from many sources and local wholesalers grow it so I have found it in local nurseries. Seed can also be found from many sources including Chile Flora.  These, of course, are native to Chile.


  1. Thank you oceans for the exquisite photo and for sharing your cultivating tips. Besides being so inspiring, you are the Queen of all gardens.

  2. Thanks so much Linda for this great info on growing Lobelia Tupa in your NW garden. Love the blog and the wisdom you share. Ah, the joy of gardening! Tom from Vashon Island.

  3. Great info. I just bought a lobelia tupa from Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend and was trying to figure out where to put it. It's so hard to plant a 6-incher that will become a 6-footer. Thanks.

  4. Help, I think I have this plant in the garden of the house I just purchased. Weirdly though it only bloomed in spring but with us being in CA its probably like summer everywhere else. lol. Anyway, some areas it went to 6ft but in a few it went to 9ft after we cut it last Nov to about 3ft. My problem is I have just cut some of it to 1ft and am wanting to know if shoots still grow on the old wood as it was very straggly at the bottom with no leaves

  5. I was searching for info on when I can expect my lobelia tupa to bloom, and I was sent here almost eight years after you wrote it! I planted it last April, and it did so poorly that I thought it was going to croak on me. I moved it to a sunny spot simply because it was the only available place I had, and now it's growing wonderfully! Can't wait for those summer blooms.

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