Castilleja - Scarlet Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) Indian Paint Brush Prairie Fire Wildflower Herb
Height 1.5 ft
Castilleja, commonly known as paintbrush, Indian paintbrush, or prairie-fire, is a biennial wildflower that typically grows less than 0.5 m in height, and consists of a basal rosette the first year and a flowering stalk the second year. The central stem is usually green or reddish brown and covered in small hairs. Leaves are alternately attached, stemless, medium green coloured, have entire margins, are lance shaped, and are deeply divided into 3 to 5 lobes, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem.
The actual flowers of Indian paintbrush are inconspicuous, tubular, greenish yellow, and are nestled in the axils of brilliantly coloured bracts (modified leaves) which can be red, orange, or yellow. It blooms April to July. The colouring of the bracts appear to have have been dipped in paint, hence the plants common name.
This wildflower has no surface for insects to land, and primarily attracts pollinators that can hover, such as Hover flies and Hummingbirds. The roots of this plant are unique in the way they help to prevent erosion, as it is a partially parasitic plant. Roots grow until they touch the roots of other plants, frequently grasses, and then penetrate the roots of these host plants to obtain a portion of their nutrients, which creates a more intricate root system with other surrounding plants that help prevent surface soil erosion.
Note: This rooting ability also makes Indian Paintbrush respond poorly to being transplanted.
This wildflower can be found growing naturally in moist forests, moist fields and meadows, prairies, and along stream or lake shorelines. Paintbrush does best in a prairie garden or wildflower meadow.
- Full sun to sun but not intense heat
- Prefers well draining, sandy or loamy soil
Seeding is the best way to plant Indian paintbrush because container-grown plants are difficult to transplant.
Recommend sowing direct outdoors - mimicking nature - naturally, paintbrush seeds are sown once the ripe berries have become soft and turned orange or red from the end of winter to early summer; the seeds may take a few months to germinate and they need a period of cold stratification first.
- OR you can experiment and start seeds indoors. Use biodegradable pots as they do not like to be transplanted. Place the seeds on the surface of your growing medium, and water in lightly from below. Place your container(s) in the fridge for 60 days. Once the cold period is completed, place the container at room temperature for them to germinate. Transplant the whole pot outdoors after all risk of frost has passed.
- Seed Count: 20