Castilleja coccinea

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: Indian paintbrush 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Orobanchaceae
Native Range: Western United States
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 0.75 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: April to July
Bloom Description: Orange-red
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Hummingbirds


Best grown in medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. This species is primarily biennial: basal rosette the first year and flowering stalk the second year, with plant death occurring shortly after seed set and with new seed usually germinating in early fall. Species is also semi-parasitic in that its roots will attach to and absorb some nutrients and water from the roots of certain other plants. Evidence suggests that paintbrush will perform best in cultivation when grown in combination with one or more of the plants it commonly parasitizes in the wild (e.g., Schizachyrium, Penstemon and/or Sisyrinchium). Difficult to grow from seed. Although plants will reseed in optimum growing conditions, reseeding alone is often not enough to keep plants in the garden unless new plants and/or additional seeding are done each year until a colony is established.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Castilleja coccinea, commonly called Indian paintbrush or painted cup, is a biennial member of the broomrape family (Orobanchaceae) that typically grows on unbranched stems to 1-1.5' tall (less frequently to 2'). It is a Missouri native which occurs in prairies, rocky glades, moist and open woodlands, thickets and streambanks in the eastern, central and southern parts of the State (Steyermark). The large, fan-shaped, orange-red "flowers" are actually brightly-colored, three-lobed, leafy bracts which appear at the stem tops in dense spikes and which surround and hide the tiny greenish-yellow true flowers. Blooms spring to early summer. Two types of medium green leaves: entire, lance-shaped leaves in a basal rosette and stem leaves divided into 3-5 deep, narrow lobes.

Genus name comes from an 18th century botanist, Domingo Castillejo, of Cadiz, Spain.

Specific epithet means scarlet.

Common name of paintbrush refers to the supposed resemblance of the flowering plant to a brush dipped in paint.


No serious insect or disease problems. Plant foliage disappears in early summer shortly after seed set. Difficult to establish and keep in a garden.


Perhaps best reserved for naturalizing in native plant gardens, prairies or glades.