Lobelia – a blue annual used in hanging baskets. There are also some perennial ones that often don’t survive the winter due to a combination of cold and wet conditions. This includes the variety ‘Queen Victoria’ with purple leaves and scarlet flowers that both gardeners and snails find irresistible. Then there’s another member of the family that looks totally different.
Lobelia tupa is a native of Chile where it can reach more than ten feet in height. In our gardens, it grows to around six feet with a spread of half that. It prefers dry soils (although it sometimes grows in beach sand in its native home where it copes with quite a high water table), and should take temperatures down to -10C without suffering ill effects. A dry mulch of roots would give added protection in colder areas. Give it sun, or at most part shade, and a fertile soil, and it should reward you with its scarlet flowers over grey-green tobacco-like foliage for several weeks.
It took me two attempts to establish lobelia tupa in my garden, the first site not having sufficient drainage. A south-facing site in full sun, with grit added to the soil, has suited it better, and it is now carrying eleven flower spikes in only its second year.
It looks really exotic, and totally unlike a lobelia.