It won’t be long until one of the most beautiful wildflowers fires up the moist woodland borders like few other plants. I am talking about Indian Pink, known botanically as Spigelia marilandica. It is so showy it caused my son to get off his bike and take notice when he was around 11.
The Indian Pink is native to 17 states from Texas to Florida and north to Illinois and is cold hardy from zones 5-9. It is different from many other wildflowers in that it is easy to grow and makes an incredible plant for the shade or woodland garden. Your clump or stand will expand over the years and became the real showstopper in the garden.
I have never met a single gardener who doesn’t treasure this plant. It’s not just the gardeners either, as this is one of the favorite natives for the ruby-throated hummingbird. In fact Operation RubyThroat lists it as No. 8 on its list of native plants. In the South, the flowers start showing out in March and last through May, and even later in the northern regions. One of the things I treasure most about digital photography is that the camera records when the images were taken, helping keep track of when things bloom.
Indian Pink blooms are incredibly beautiful with their blazing tubular red flowers that open to expose bright yellow star-shaped tips. As striking as they are, they have been dealt a severe blow with some common names such as wormgrass and woodland pinkroot. Madison Avenue would have difficulty overcoming those names. Even the name Indian Pink doesn’t do it justice.
I am always getting questions about what to grow in moist, partially shady areas. The Indian Pink would certainly be a great one to consider. This is a good clump-forming perennial that usually reaches about 2 feet in height. It is getting somewhat easier to find at garden centers and a whole lot easier to find via mail order.
To get Indian Pinks more readily for sale at the garden center will take a cooperative effort: by the garden center to get them and then the consumers with their wallets. It can happen — just look at all of the new plants we have that appeal to the backyard wildlife habitat. It was just a short time ago you couldn’t find plants like Joe Pye weed or butterfly weed, but now most garden centers keep them on hand.
When you get yours, choose a site on the woodland edge or under the high filtered light of overhead trees. The soil should be moist and organic rich. Plant several of them, creating an informal drift. They are great with clumps of Christmas ferns, in front of large oakleaf hydrangeas and even partnered with hostas. I like them with blue-leafed hostas, but they can be breath taking with hostas like Stained Glass or Cathedral Windows that have chartreuse or lime green.
Dr. Allen Armitage at the University of Georgia, a renowned flower expert, said: “The upright, tubular flowers stop people dead in their tracks.”
It is great when an expert says something like that. The proof in the pudding, so to speak, is that when flowers capture an 11-year-old boy’s attention, you know they are something special. I hope you will give them a try in your garden.