Plant of the Week: Indian Pink

If you garden in shade, you may be devoted to finding excitement in varying hues of green. Shade has its firecrackers, though, and one of them is a little-known perennial called Indian pink.

Indian pink is a little-known perennial that in June sizzles in the shadows with 2-inch-long, trumpet-shaped, fire-engine red flowers that open to yellow throats. Hummingbirds love the blooms of this southeastern wildflower. When the show is over, the wide heart-shaped leaves stay deep green and glossy. And unlike other shade plants, which can be aggressive, Indian pink is very well behaved. It forms a small clump where you plant it, and doesn't naturalize or reseed excessively.

Common name: Indian pink, Maryland pinkroot, woodland pinkroot.

Botanical name: Spigelia marilandica.

Plant type: Perennial.

Zones: 5 to 9.

Height: 1 to 2 feet.

Family: Loganiaceae.


Growing conditions

  • Sun: Part shade to full shade.
  • Soil: Average, well-drained, humus-rich.
  • Moisture: Average to moist.

Care

  • Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
  • Pruning: None needed.
  • Fertilizer: None needed.

Propagation

  • By seed and division.

Pests and diseases

  • Vulnerable to powdery mildew and leaf spots.

Garden notes

  • Though Indian pink flowers are red and yellow, they aren't garish. They make pleasant neighbors for plants with white, pink, and yellow blossoms.
  • Use Indian pink in woodland gardens, around a water feature, or in the front of a shady perennial border.
  • Combine Indian pink with Jacob's ladder, wild geranium, wild ginger, rue anemone, and other shade-loving natives. Give it a sheltered place where it won't be overwhelmed by taller or more aggressive plants.

All in the family

  • There are just a few North American relatives of Indian pinkroot, and they aren't much for traveling. Two species are found only in Texas: Texas pinkroot (Spigelia texana) and prairie pinkroot (S. hedyotidea). Another species, purpleflower pinkroot (S. gentianoides) is found only in Florida and Alabama, and is threatened or endangered in both states. Most of the rest of the genus (about 50 species) prefer the tropics.

Where to buy

Anybody ever plant Indian pink as a sizzling shade wildflower?