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Delphinium cardinale

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About Scarlet Larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) Delphinium cardinale is a species in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family known by the common names Scarlet Larkspur. This wildflower is found primarily in the southern half of California and Baja California, where it grows on coastal and inland chaparral slopes. This tall larkspur grows on an erect stem which can exceed two meters in height. The basal leaves are divided into many narrow lobes. The top of the thin stem is occupied by many widely spaced flowers, each at the end of a pedicel several centimeters long. Each flower has scarlet red sepals which are generally curled forward into a bowl shape. The petals are also scarlet, except for the top two which are scarlet marked with bright yellow blotches. The flower may be 3 centimeters wide and the same in length, including the spur. This is a very showy plant when in bloom that works well at the back of a bed or among low chaparral shrubs. Due to its height and thin stem it may need support when in bloom. It will die back to the ground in late summer and should be kept dry, reemerging in spring if conditions have been suitable.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Perennial herb

Max. Height
3 - 6.6 ft (0.9 - 2 m)

Max. Width
1 - 2 ft (0.3 - 0.6 m)


Summer Deciduous

Flower Color
Red, Yellow

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Relatively warm, dry coastal canyons, foothills and valleys from Montery County southward

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
40' - 6188'

Annual Precip. ?
9.7" - 44.9"

Summer Precip. ?
0.17" - 2.33"

Coldest Month ?
39.6° F - 55.7° F

Hottest Month ?
64.5° F - 80.7° F

Humidity ?
0.88 vpd - 32.40 vpd

Soil Description
Best in rocky or sandy soil, but will tolerate richer soils. Often found on chert or shale talus slopes

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 10° F

Sunset Zones ?
7, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Companion Plants
Works well with virtually any chaparral shrubs or subshrubs as long as they don't smother it; also various annuals, herbaceous perennials, geophytes, small cactus and succulents

Wildlife Attracted
The flowers are major hummingbird attractants

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Pest Control
Protect from snails and slugs

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment; .5 -1 mo. stratification or germination in darkness may improve results.

Common uses
Hummingbird Gardens, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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