If you’re a hummingbird enthusiast, the Indian pink plant (Spigelia marilandica, Zones 5-9) is a must-have addition to your garden. Also known as pinkroot, this native perennial graces the Southern Plains with its stunning display of vivid red and yellow blooms in late spring and early summer. With its tubular flowers that open one by one, the Indian pink creates a mesmerizing sight as its bright red throats flare at the top, forming yellow stars.
A Native Gem with a Broad Range
While the Indian pink can be found in my home state of Illinois, it wasn’t until I ventured to Oklahoma that I discovered the true beauty of this plant. Its native range stretches from Indiana to Texas and from Florida to Illinois. In the wild, this clump-forming perennial thrives in moist woods and along streambanks, adding a touch of natural elegance to the landscape.
Versatility in Sun or Shade, Wet or Dry
Indian pink is a versatile plant that adapts effortlessly to various soil and light conditions, making it an excellent choice for native plantings, pollinator gardens, and shady borders. Whether it’s full shade or full sun, this hardy plant performs best in partial to full shade with moist soil. Even in heavy shade, the Indian pink blooms prolifically, making it an exceptional choice for cut flowers. To extend the blooming period, simply remove spent blooms.
With its tolerance for wet soil, the Indian pink also thrives in bog gardens and pond-side settings. Surprisingly, it can even be grown in dry shade gardens, showcasing the remarkable adaptability of this plant. However, in sunnier locations, supplemental irrigation may be necessary to sustain its growth.
Best grown in shade, Indian pink has a tidy, rounded habit with flowers on all sides. Photo: Kim Toscano
Propagation and Attracting Hummingbirds
The Indian pink is a pollinator’s delight, attracting ruby-throated hummingbirds to your garden. Once pollinated, the plant produces two-sided seed capsules, each containing four to seven seeds. Gardeners interested in collecting seeds should cover the green pods with netting to capture the seeds forcefully ejected for dispersal in late June through July. For optimal germination, sow the seeds immediately, or store them in a dry location until the following spring. Additionally, the Indian pink can be propagated through stem cuttings.
Plant Indian pink among hostas and oakleaf hydrangeas for a splash of contrast when in bloom and glossy filler foliage when not. Photo: Kim Toscano
Beyond its dazzling blooms, the Indian pink offers year-round beauty with its glossy green foliage. When not in bloom, it serves as a sturdy backdrop for delicate ferns and other fine-textured companions like the stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus, Zones 5-9). For a bold statement, pair it with plants boasting striking foliage, such as hostas (Hosta spp., Zones 3-8) and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, Zones 5-9). Remember to give the Indian pink ample space, as it does not compete well with aggressive plants.
A Word of Caution and Benefits
While the Indian pink adds charm to any garden, caution is advised for those with children and pets, as all parts of the plant contain toxic alkaloids. However, this plant has minimal issues with pests or diseases and is drought tolerant once established. The Indian pink is an underutilized native perennial that perfectly balances beauty and resilience, deserving a prominent place in your garden.
To explore a wide selection of plants, including the Indian pink, visit the Ames Farm Center website.
—Kim Toscano is a horticulturist, entomologist, garden designer, writer, and graphic designer. She previously hosted Oklahoma Gardening, a weekly PBS television program produced by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.