Lobelia was introduced more than 200 years ago from the region around the Cape of Good Hope. The original wild forms of lobelia have been bred to bloom more profusely. There are both trailing varieties, with billowing masses of blossoms, and more compact bedding types, seldom exceeding 6 inches in height. The flowers, borne along each stem, are blue on the common varieties, but white and carmine types have also been developed. Lobelia is prized for window boxes, hanging baskets, planters, and ground covers. Although the plants do best in full sun and moist, rich soil where summers are cool, they will grow surprisingly well in hot areas if given partial shade. The plant is named for Matthias de l'Obel, botanist and physician for James I of England in 16th century; other related and popular species and cultivars are perennial, some suitable for watersides.