The Indian paintbrush flowers are also known as Castilleja and they are named for the clusters of spiky blooms that resemble paintbrushes dipped in bright red or orange-yellow paint. Growing the Indian paintbrush flowers can add interest to the native garden.


Indian Paintbrush Info

The Indian paintbrush flower which is also known as Castilleja grow in forest clearings and grasslands across the western and southwestern United States. The Indian paintbrush wildflower is actually a biennial plant that usually develops rosettes the first year and stalks of blooms in spring or early summer of the second year. The Indian paintbrush wildflower is short-lived and dies after it sets seed. On the other hand if conditions are right, the plant reseeds itself every autumn. The Indian paintbrush wildflower grows when it is planted in close proximity with other plants, primarily grasses or native plants like blue-eyed grass or penstemon. This is because the Indian paintbrush wildflower sends roots out to the other plants, then penetrates the roots and “borrows” nutrients it needs in order to survive. The Indian paintbrush wildflower tolerates cold winters, although it doesn’t perform well in the warmer climates of USDA zones eight and above.  


How to Grow Castilleja Indian Paintbrush

Actually to grow Indian paintbrush is tricky, although it isn’t impossible. The Indian paintbrush doesn’t do well in a manicured formal garden and it has the best chance of success in a prairie or wildflower meadow with other native plants. The plant actually needs full sunlight and a well-drained soil. Plant the Indian paintbrush seeds when the soil is between fifty-five and sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The Indian paintbrush is slow to germinate and may not make an appearance for as long as 3 or 4 months. Colonies of the plant will eventually develop if you help the plant by planting the seeds every autumn. You can easily clip the blooms as soon as they wilt if you don’t want the plant to reseed itself.  


How to Care for Indian Paintbrush

You need to keep the soil consistently moist for the first year, but don’t let the soil to become soggy or waterlogged. Thereafter, the plant is relatively drought-tolerant and they need only occasional watering. The established Indian paintbrush requires no further attention. Don’t fertilize the plant.


Saving Indian Paintbrush Seeds

If you actually want to save the Indian paintbrush seeds for later planting, you can harvest the pods as soon as they begin to appear dry and brown. Just spread the pods to dry or you can place them in a brown paper bag and shake them often. When the pods are dry you can remove the seeds and then store them in a cool, dry place. 

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