Lobeliaceae - The Lobelia Erinus

There are hundreds of Lobelia species (some 415, in fact), 69 of which are indigenous to and / or found in South Africa (such as the Lobelia erinus). It belongs to the Lobeliaceae family and is a popular ornamental flower for the garden, based on its pretty coloured blooms.

Did you know? This popular plant reaches a mature height of about 30 to 50 centimetres, depending on the species.

Lobelia is a perennial shrub, and produces pretty flowers that range in colour from blue and purple to white and pink, depending on the specific species. The simple leaves are alternate, the flowers are arranged irregularly and the fruit is a capsule that contains the seeds.

Flowering time

There are so many different species of Lobelia, and these flower during different times of the year. However, they commonly include the summer seasons (to a greater or lesser degree) in their various flowering times.

Use in the garden

In addition to being a gorgeous ornamental plant, Lobelia is also known for its use in the natural medicine field. It is believed to be effective in the treatment of skin disease, gout, and chronic arthritis. Some species were even considered to be effective as cures for syphilis in days past.

Because it grows easily and has a long flowering period, it is popular in the formal flower industry and in horticulture. Lobelia is a source of food for the larvae of some moths and butterflies.

Natural distribution

Lobelias prefer the tropical and temperate parts of the country as their natural habitat. They can be found in the Cape (including on Table Mountain) and on the mountain slopes of other ranges.

They extend right from the southern and eastern coasts of South Africa into tropical Africa far further north.

Growing Lobelia in your garden

This pretty shrub makes for excellent borders and edges in the garden, and can also be grown in pots. They grow well in a variety of habitats, depending on their specific species.

Keep the soil moist and choose a spot that has an effective water drainage system. A good quality compost is recommended, but not essential to the success of your garden-bound Lobelia.


Most Lobelia species are easily grown from seed. These seeds are tiny, so try to spread them lightly and evenly over the compost using your thumb and forefinger. Then, press them down very gently into the top layer of the sand, not covering them with sand or pushing them hard. Then, spray a fine mist of tepid water over the top to settle the compost.

Once they are seedlings, they should be handled very gently, holding them only by their leaves. Transfer them into seedling trays and, as they mature, slowly start to leave them outside for increasingly long periods of time. However, they are sensitive to frost, so be sure to keep them out of areas in which this will affect them. Then, after the coldest time of year, they can be planted out into beds or pots in the garden.

If you plan to travel to South Africa to visit our magnificent botanical gardens and to enjoy our diverse plant life and unspoiled wilderness, click here to start your search for accommodation in South Africa for your holiday. We wish you happy exploring and travelling.

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Important Floristic Regions
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