Lobelia tupa

Plant of the month: August

Lobelia tupa should ideally be grown in an open, sunny spot with some shelter from the wind. In very severe winter weather the crowns should be protected with straw or bracken and leaving the old stems on until early spring also provides extra protection. It can be propagate by very careful division of crowns or by seed. As with all lobelia the tiny seedlings are a bit fiddly but grow away strongly once pricked out.  Seedlings will normally flower the in the summer of their second year.This plant must be one of the most dramatic lobelias around! It is spoken of in awe by the few gardening people who grow it, for it becomes a huge plant with magnificent leaves – for which alone it would be worth growing if you have room. From the giant rosette formed by the foliage rise tall stems set with fiery red flowers quite unlike those of the more familiar ground-hugging, blue relative Lobelia erinus. The flower scapes and leaves were smoked by the Mapuchu Indians of Chile for their rather special effects (apparently not recommended!). This may explain one of its common names – devil’s tobacco!