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Castilleja coccinea

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Kemper Code:  J690

Common Name: Indian paintbrush
Zone: 4 to 8
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Orobanchaceae
Missouri Native: Yes
Native Range: Western United States
Height: 0.75 to 1.5 feet
Spread: 1 to 1.5 feet
Bloom Time: April - July   Bloom Data
Bloom Color: Orange-red
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium

Plant Culture and Characteristics

Sources for this plant

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  Uses:       Wildlife:   Flowers:   Leaves:   Fruit:
Hedge Suitable as annual Attracts birds Has showy flowers Leaves colorful Has showy fruit
Shade tree Culinary herb Attracts Has fragrant flowers Leaves fragrant Fruit edible
Street tree Vegetable   hummingbirds Flowers not showy Good fall color   Other:
Flowering tree Water garden plant Attracts Good cut flower Evergreen Winter interest
Gr. cover (<1') Will naturalize   butterflies Good dried flower     Thorns or spines

General Culture:

Best grown in medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. This species is primarily biennial: basal rosette the first year and flowering stalk the second year, with plant death occurring shortly after seed set and with new seed usually germinating in early fall. Species is also semi-parasitic in that its roots will attach to and absorb some nutrients and water from the roots of certain other plants. Evidence suggests that paintbrush will perform best in cultivation when grown in combination with one or more of the plants it commonly parasitizes in the wild (e.g., Schizachyrium, Penstemon and/or Sisyrinchium). Difficult to grow from seed. Although plants will reseed in optimum growing conditions, reseeding alone is often not enough to keep plants in the garden unless new plants and/or additional seeding are done each year until a colony is established.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Indian paintbrush (also commonly called painted cup) is a biennial member of the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae) that typically grows on unbranched stems to 1-1.5' tall (less frequently to 2'). It is a Missouri native which occurs in prairies, rocky glades, moist and open woodlands, thickets and streambanks in the eastern, central and southern parts of the State (Steyermark). The large, fan-shaped, orange-red "flowers" are actually brightly-colored, three-lobed, leafy bracts which appear at the stem tops in dense spikes and which surround and hide the tiny greenish-yellow true flowers. Blooms spring to early summer. Two types of medium green leaves: entire, lance-shaped leaves in a basal rosette and stem leaves divided into 3-5 deep, narrow lobes. Common name of paintbrush refers to the supposed resemblance of the flowering plant to a brush dipped in paint.

Problems: Click for detailed list of pests and problems.

No serious insect or disease problems. Plant foliage disappears in early summer shortly after seed set. Difficult to establish and keep in a garden.


Perhaps best reserved for naturalizing in native plant gardens, prairies or glades.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2011

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