Thomas Jefferson recorded planting the Cardinal Flower in one of the oval flower beds near the house at Monticello in 1807. [1] This native perennial was introduced to Britain in 1626.[2] It was recommended for garden use by Jefferson's nurseryman friend, Bernard McMahon, in The American Gardener's Calendar, 1806,[3] and the earliest American reference comes from John Bartram in 1783.[4] At one time this flower was used by Native American Indians as a root tea for treating stomach aches, typhoid and other diseases.

The Cardinal Flower is a hardy, North American summer-flowering perennial which has brilliant scarlet flower spikes above deep, blue green basal rosette of foliage.

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Typical Blooming Dates: July - October
Growth Type: Perennial
Color(s): Reds
Location at Monticello: West and East Lawns
Planting Conditions: Partial and Full Shade
Hardiness Zones: 4-8

Further Sources


  1. ^  Betts, Garden Book, 335. See also Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch, Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986),67-68.
  2. ^ Alice M. Coates, Flowers and their Histories. (London: Black, 1968), 152.
  3. ^ McMahon, 72, 151, 292, 345, and 461.
  4. ^ Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 192.