Come July the hummingbirds in my yard add regular visits to the brick red flowers of Lobelia tupa. Perhaps they, like the Andean natives who smoked it, derive some narcotic or analgesic benefits*, or perhaps it just has tasty nectar. Whatever the reason, the hummers seem particularly fond of L. tupa.
Even without the hummingbirds, Lobelia tupa is a plant worth having. It grows 4-5′ tall and during July and August has tubular, flowers that seem to be a mix of red and orange with a hint of pink. In its natve Chile, L. tupa grows in two environments – “somewhat dry areas where the drought may last 3-5 months” (which begs the question, “What qualifies as REALLY dry?”) and “humid areas with almost constant rainfall.” So clearly these lobelias are easy-going about their watering needs. They like sun. Mine grow well in sandy soil next to a south-facing wall that gets fairly regular water. They have shown no tendency to slump or flop. Cut L. tupa back fairly late in the fall. They are listed as hardy to Zone 8 but mine have survived well through two winters where a lot of other Zone 8 plants bit the dust.