Indian pink: A colorful native wildflower

A native perennial plant, Indian pink is a show-stopper that attracts hummingbirds to the shade garden.

Courtesy of Gene Bush
Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) is a colorful perennial plant native to the southeastern US and some of the Midwest. It's a showy addition to the shade garden.

In spite of the relatively limited geographic range of Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), the plant can be found growing in a variety of habitats.

Generally, it's located growing among open woods and thickets in moist soil. It's also been seen growing among grasses in moist to wet soil in full sun.

The showy native flowers in June

I think that Indian pink (also called pink root and worm root) is our most showy perennial native. Plants in my garden reach about 18 inches in height. Halfway decent garden soil with mulch seems to suit the plant just fine.

The leaves are ovate in shape, opposite each other, and unfurl in pairs as the stem extends. Individual leaves have a prominently veined appearance.

In the years I have grown this native, I do not remember seeing insect damage. Nor have I seen any evidence of disease.

Flowers are on stems well above the foliage. Individual blooms are tubular in shape and close to fire engine-red on the outside. At the tip of the tube there is a crimp and then a flaring of five pointed lobes of yellow. The two-inch tubes of red with the yellow star on top make me think of a firecracker explosion.

Individual blooms open in sequence from bottom to top of the stem.

Slow to reach maturity

It takes three years for the plants to form nice stands, so I began with three pots of seedlings. You may want to make sure you are buying bloom-sized plants, as it took mine two full years before first bloom, and another three, or so, for goodly clumps to form.

For companions with Indian pinks, I have grown fond of larger ferns such as the cinnamon fern and Clayton’s interrupted. Oakleaf hydrangea, with its large cones of white blooms, makes a great background. Any plant you place with Indian pink will end up playing second fiddle to this show-stopper, which is quite popular with hummingbirds.


Gene Bush, a nationally known garden writer, photographer, lecturer, and nursery owner, gardens on a shaded hillside in southern Indiana. His website is He also writes the Garden Clippin's Newsletter. To read more by Gene here at Diggin' It, click here.

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