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Castilleja coccinea (Indian Paintbrush)

Scarlet Paintbrush, Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Painted Cup, Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja ludoviciana

Castilleja coccinea, Scarlet Paintbrush, Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Painted Cup, Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja coccinea, with its distinctive bracts and vibrant colors, is an excellent choice for adding visual interest to naturalistic landscapes. It is a valuable plant for ecological gardens, attracting pollinators and participating in the biodiversity of native ecosystems.

Castilleja coccinea: An In-depth Look

Castilleja coccinea, commonly known as Indian Paintbrush, is a unique and colorful wildflower. It is distinguished by its bright, showy bracts that resemble a paintbrush dipped in vibrant colors. These bracts, often mistaken for flowers, are typically fiery red but can also be orange, yellow, or cream.

Native: This plant is native to North America, found in meadows, prairies, and open woodlands, predominantly in the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Indian Paintbrush is the state flower of Wyoming. It is listed as endangered in some states and as extinct in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Delaware, and Louisiana.

Plant Type and Habit: Indian Paintbrush is primarily a biennial plant. In its first year, it forms a basal rosette, followed by a flowering stalk in the second year. After setting seeds, the plant typically dies. New seeds usually germinate in early fall. This species has an upright growth habit. It is also semi-parasitic, with its roots attaching to and deriving nutrients and water from the roots of neighboring plants.

Size: t typically grows about 1-2 feet tall (30-60 cm) and spreads approximately 12-18 inches (30-45 cm), forming a clump of slender, erect stems.

Flowers: The striking orange-red structures on Indian Paintbrush plants, often mistaken for flowers, are actually vivid, three-lobed, leafy bracts fanning out at the stem tops in dense spikes. These bracts cleverly conceal the plant’s tiny greenish-yellow true flowers. Flowering occurs from spring to summer, providing a bright display in naturalistic and wildflower gardens. The plant produces small capsules containing numerous seeds, which are typically dispersed by wind.

Foliage: Its foliage includes lance-shaped, unlobed leaves forming a basal rosette, and stem leaves divided into 3-5 deep, narrow lobes, both in a medium green hue.

Uses: It’s primarily used in wildflower gardens, meadows, and prairie restoration projects. It’s also popular in naturalistic landscaping for its vivid colors and ecological value.

Hardiness: It is found in USDA hardiness zones 4-8, showing a wide adaptability to different climatic conditions.

Wildlife: The flowers are attractive to various pollinators, including bees, hummingbirds, and birds, enhancing biodiversity.

Toxicity: Castilleja coccinea is not known to be toxic.

Invasiveness: Not considered invasive; it grows naturally in many parts of North America and contributes positively to native ecosystems.

Benefits: In addition to its ornamental value, it plays a role in ecological restoration and conservation. It’s also beneficial for teaching about native plants and their roles in natural habitats.

Indian Paintbrush Growing Tips

Light: Prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade. Adequate sunlight is crucial for vibrant coloration and optimal flowering.

Soil: Thrives in well-draining, sandy or loamy soil. Tolerates a range of soil pH but prefers slightly acidic to neutral conditions.

Water: Requires moderate watering, especially during dry spells. Overwatering or poorly drained soils can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer: Generally does not require fertilization. Over-fertilizing can harm its hemiparasitic nature and neighboring plants.

Pruning: Deadheading spent flowers can encourage more blooms. Pruning is minimal and generally for aesthetic shaping.

Propagation: Propagated through seeds, ideally sown in fall. Can be challenging to grow from seed due to its parasitic nature. Transplanting paintbrush usually kills it.

Pests and Diseases: No serious insect or disease problems.

Requirements

Hardiness 4 - 8
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Orobanchaceae
Common names Indian Paintbrush
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 12" - 18"
(30cm - 50cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds, Birds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
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Recommended Companion Plants

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama)
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem)
Penstemon (Beardtongue)
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 4 - 8
Plant Type Perennials
Plant Family Orobanchaceae
Common names Indian Paintbrush
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Spacing 12" - 18"
(30cm - 50cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma
Attracts Bees, Hummingbirds, Birds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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