I have difficulty getting cardinal flowers (red and blue) to actually grow
I have purchased cardinal flower plants a dozen times. They never survive. Even the initial season. Never had one, reach blooming status. I've tried every soil type. Inground, in planters, in varied location. NO SUCCESS. Tell me why. I also have little success with a wide variety of purchased perennials: I read everything, available. No luck. Help! Please. Contrary, I have tremendous success with several perennials.
You aren't alone in having trouble growing cardinal flower. It must have damp to wet soil in summer but the same conditions will kill it in winter. In areas with hot summers, provide shade from the afternoon sun. Where it is happy, it will self sow; otherwise, even in optimal conditions it will only last 3-4 years. My neighbor has a lovely lupine. I can not get it to grow. Every yard has several "micro-climates" and if yours doesn't have a good match for the few plants that are this fussy, then maybe it is time to stop trying cardinal flower. As long as you meet the plant's basic light and moisture requirements, having trouble doesn't mean you aren't a good gardener. It just sounds like a poor fit for your garden conditions. Try cardinal vine; it has lovely red flowers that hummingbirds love.