Sinningia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) - An easy to grow Gesneriad with a large round basal caudex and large velvety bright-green leaves that sprout from it in spring and grown to about 12 inches tall topped with brilliant orange-red hooded flowers that can appear multiple times from late winter to mid-summer.
Plant in a pot or protected spot that has well-draining soil in light shade or morning sun and water regularly when in leaf but avoid moisture during winter dormancy and protect from any frost. Can work in shade in Southern California so long as it is in a protective spot like under an eave, otherwise grow it in a pot and move it to protect from both winter moisture and cold.
Sinningia cardinalis comes from Brazil and Argentina and is one of the Rechsteineria group of Sinningias that has long been cultivated in greenhouses and used in hybridization. The plant was first described as Gesneria cardinalis in 1850 by the German botanist Carl Friedrich Phillip von Martius (1794-1868) and transferred to Sinningia by Harold Emery Moore in 1973. The name for the genus honors Wilhelm Sinning (1792-1874), a gardener of the University of Bonn Botanic Garden. The specific epithet is used to mean red though comes from the Latin words meaning "very important" or "essential" from 'cardo' ("hinge" or "turning point") which is where the name for the Roman Catholic Church Cardinal Bishops come from, and it is their wearing of the red hat and robe that transfers the meaning of color to the name. This plant is also commonly called Gloxinia and Helmet Flower.
We first received seed of this species from the succulent master and aloe hybridizer John Bleck in 2014 and we grew it until 2017 – a nice showy plant, but it really didn't fit in that well with our plant palette. We continue to grow other Sinningia, including the species Sinningia tubiflora, a light pink hybrid called Sinningia 'Invasion Force', a dark pink hybrid called Sinningia 'Lovely' and a white and yellow hybrid called Sinningia 'Butter and Cream'.
Information about Sinningia cardinalis displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.