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CASTILLEJA coccinea

Image of Castilleja coccinea

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Scrophulariaceae

Botanical Name

CASTILLEJA coccinea

Plant Common Name

Scarlet Indian Paintbrush

General Description

Painting the eastern shortgrass prairie with orange and red plumes in summer, Indian paintbrush is an easily identifiable, hummingbird-attracting annual or biennial that’s wildly beautiful but rarely planted in the garden. That’s because it’s semi-parasitic and must live in union with specific prairie and meadow plant species to survive.

The lance-shaped leaves of this unlikely snapdragon relative are bright green and fine. Specimens may bloom in the first year or overwinter in a leafy state and bloom in the second. The summer flower clusters appear at the stem tips. The showiest part of blooms are glowing orange-red bracts (modified leaves) that conceal small, yellow-green flowers. They are typically pollinated by hummingbirds but may also be visited by bees and butterflies. Seeds form thereafter and are shed nearby, germinating in the autumn or the following spring. Mother plants wither and die once the seeds are shed.

Indian paintbrush is best admired in a wild setting because it’s so difficult to grow in the garden. Wild populations thrive in full sun and moist or dry, slightly acid soil with average to good drainage. If host plants are made available then it is possible to grow Indian paintbrush in a garden setting, if one can find the seed. Several host plants are hairy grama grass (Bouteloua hirsuta), common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), woodland geranium (Geranium maculatum), gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) and goldenrods (Solidago, spp.). Plants may self-sow and become established if conditions are right.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    7 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    4 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

  • Plant Type

    Annual

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    8"-16" / 20.3cm - 40.6cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green, Orange Red

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Wildflower

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Hummingbirds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes