NOW is the best time to sow these delicate but vigorous bedding plants for the border, containers and baskets so that, by the middle of May, you will have some sizeable plants with good root systems that will flower until the first frosts of autumn.
Lobelia erinus is a perennial native of South Africa and has been bred and cultivated in Britain since the late 18th century.
It has gradually evolved into many different shades of blues, whites, purples and pinks as well as giving us sturdy forms for edging flower beds and more lax forms that give us those cascading masses of flowers in containers and baskets.
Sowing small pinches of the minute seeds into small cellular trays now can save you the effort of pricking out tiny, difficult seedlings later in March but many will choose to buy seedlings through the post and so will have to prick out the seedlings in clusters of 10 or so at a time to produce those distinctive clumps that we are all familiar with. For a few weeks in the seedlings’ early stages they will need temperatures of around 15°C (59° F) but by the time March arrives they can happily grow on at 10° C (50° F) whilst you use the warmer space for other more tender plants.
Amongst my favourites for baskets and containers is ‘Fountains Mixed’ with such a range of colours to combine with almost any other basket or container plants. Look out for the ‘Cascade’ series of colours as well if you want to colour theme your containers. Bedding varieties include the old favourites ‘Crystal Palace’ and ‘Cambridge Blue’ and the mixed hybrid, ‘String of Pearls’, is also very popular. ‘Rosamond’ give us an unusual carmine red flower and ‘Paper Moon’ is amongst the best of the pure whites. An Australian species, Lobelia tenuior has given rise to ‘Blue Wings’ with larger flowers and an intense cobalt blue and is worth searching out as it also has better weather resistance than the Lobelia erinus hybrids.