Grow Native – Indian Pink Should Be On Your Radar

Flying under the radar for many people, Indian Pink, or Spigelia marilandica is coming into its own. A long-lived perennial that brings stunning colors to the summer garden, hummingbirds flock to these red and yellow tubular flowers arranged in clusters. Similar to firecrackers exploding in the garden, this unique native plant stops people in their tracks when they see it in my garden.

Spigelia looks a little like firecrackers

Curious about the name, as I live in Maryland, I found that the Genus name honors Adrian van der Spiegel (1578-1625), professor of anatomy at Padua and the species means of Maryland. I assume that means it was discovered in Maryland, but haven’t been able to confirm that.

Well grown clump of Indian PinkFlowering in early summer, and then sporadically through the remainder of the growing season, Indian Pinks are highly sought after at perennial nurseries and they have trouble keeping them in stock. In fact many of the nurseries I talked to ship them to British clients instead of US, because they are mad for them! A southeastern US native hardy to zone 5b, it has been planted as a novelty, but is now reaching mainstream status.

A great companion to ferns

Emerging in the spring, the plant can grow quickly to hold more than 75 of those colorful tubular (perfect for hummers) flowers that catch your eye as soon as you look at the garden. Spigelia marilandica combines well with Dryopteris intermediaChrysogonum virginianumLilium superbum, and Aquilegia canadensis – according to Mt. Cuba Center.

The combination of yellow and red is striking
The common name of Indian Pink refers to its medicinal properties. The dried roots are used as a hallucinogen and a de-wormer, nothing to fool around with. Use it horticulturally –  not medicinally!
I grow my spigelia in mostly full sun, though most of the culture information I see on line says that it likes partial shade to shade. I have grown it for about 5 years in full sun and have been very successful with it in that location. The ones that I planted in partial shade haven’t been as floriferous.
Planted in shade, the flowers don’t make as great a show, but still do well
Highly sought after by wildflower enthusiasts, I think that everyone should include this great native in their garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. A new cultivar called ‘Little Redhead’ is now available. Reported to be much more compact and packed with flowers, it comes from Walters Gardens and is available at retail nurseries now. I am trialing the plant and will let you know how it performs for me next season and I am very excited. Stay tuned! Check out Walters Garden website for other new releases.
Picture from Walters Gardens of ‘Little Redhead’
Walters Gardens describes their new selection of ‘Little Redhead’:

Spigelia is underutilized in the landscape due to limited availability, but it’s poised to make an explosion in popularity. Why? It’s a very versatile perennial-it grows naturally in either sun or shade. This perennial can be found growing in the wild in woodlands and along streambanks throughout the Eastern United States. It’s wildly popular among wildflower enthusiasts and highly sought after.

‘Little Redhead’ is a superior selection of the species, vegetatively propagated to ensure uniformity. Dark red tubular flowers with yellow interiors are produced above top of an upright clump of dark green, wedge-shaped leaves. Everyone who has seen this variety has loved it. This genus requires good drainage to thrive, so do not plant in areas with standing water.

An update for people who live in the Maryland area, Spigelia is available at McLean Nursery, 9000 Satyr Hill Rd. in Parkville, MD. Call them at 410 882 -6714. 

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