About Indian Paintbrush: Indian Paintbrush, one of the most well-known and loved wildflowers, grows over much of the western United States. Nearly 150 different varieties of this species exist, one of which has been named Wyoming’s official state flower. This species was first described for scientific records in 1825 by noted German botanist Kurt Sprengel. Indian Paintbrush is classified as hemiparasitic, meaning that it relies on the roots of nearby plants to receive some of the nutrients it needs; this does not harm other plants. Indian Paintbrush itself is a host plant for several species of butterflies in the Checkerspot family. Its stunning scarlet “flowers,” actually bracts that hide the inconspicuous true flowers, inspired their common name because they appear to be dipped in paint. The genus name Coccinea means “scarlet.”
Indian Paintbrush Germination: To break its dormancy, this seed needs to be stratified; mix the seed with moist sand and store it in the refrigerator for 60-90 days before planting. In the spring, plant the seed on the surface of loose soil at the base of a larger plant. Since Indian Paintbrush is hemiparasitic, it needs a “host” plant to aid it in receiving necessary nutrients from the soil. For fall planting, sow untreated seed on the surface of loose soil near other plants, or sow a low-growing native grass along with the Indian Paintbrush seed. This plant seems to grow well with Penstemon, as well as various native, low growing grasses and sedges. Germination may be slow and irregular. Transplanting is not reccomended. This plant prefers sandy or average soil, but also adapts well to rather moist soil with good drainage.
Growing Indian Paintbrush Seeds: This plant develops rather slowly and will not bloom until its second year. Since seedlings are very sensitive to drought, water them evenly and regularly during their first season; mature plants may also need occasional watering, since they do not tolerate extensive drought. This plant will wither and die once its seed has been produced, but volunteer seedlings may grow from dropped seed. Indian Paintbrush attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. These plants are rather difficult to grow in the garden, but make a lovely addition to prairie plantings or native meadows.
Harvesting Indian Paintbrush: This rare wildflower is best displayed in the garden or prairie, where it will develop seed to preserve its growth for future generations. Keep in mind that its leaves are highly toxic.
Saving Indian Paintbrush Seeds: Small pods will form at the tops of the stalks. These pods will split and release their seeds when dry, and should be harvested before that point. As soon as the pods begin to feel dry and start to turn color, remove them and spread them out to dry. Thresh the dried pods to remove the seed. Store the seed in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Indian Paintbrush Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Painted Cup, Scarlet Painted-Cup Duration: Biennial Bloom Time: Early Summer Height: 12-24 inches Spacing: 9-12 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Medium USDA Zone: 4a-8b Seeds Per Oz: 300,000 Produces blade-shaped leaves at the base and hairy, deeply lobed leaves on the stem, topped by clusters of spiky three-lobed bracts of bright red.