Indian Pinks, aka “Spigelia marilandica“, are nothing short of a spectacular plant. A native wildflower (no hybrid or “made in China” plant here!), Indian Pinks aren’t sold many places and only grow in the southeast United States. Perhaps their rarity increases their loveliness. It is doubtful that you will find them in a home improvement store or even in a local nursery. These plants are usually purchased via mail order and only in the plant form – I have yet to find anyone who sells the seeds. However, once they are given a proper home they will grace that spot for years to come and continue to spread.
Instead of being pink, as one might imagine, Indian Pinks are red and yellow. They reach between twelve and eighteen inches high. One of the keys to success in growing Indian Pinks is a moist growing site. In the wild these flowers would be found on the banks of streams. Few of us have streams flowing through our yards or, if we do, we wish we didn’t, but often there we have some semi-shady, constantly moist site where few other plants are happy. It is here where the Indian Pinks thrive.
One would think that, because these plants thrive in places where other plants don’t, the nursery trade would be interested in cultivating them for resale. Certainly there have been people encouraging them to do so, yet thus far there are few places to buy mature Indian Pinks. I believe I know the reason – it is simply too difficult to gather the seeds from the flowers to make propagation worth while. Indian Pinks put off seed heads after they finish flowering. These seed heads must remain on the plant in order to mature properly; however, once matured they POP and the teeny tiny seeds splay into the four winds.
For those of you who are serious about growing Indian Pinks, there is an easy way to capture these seeds. Once the seed head begins to ripen, take a foot from an old piece of panty hose and rubber band it to the stalk. This way the seeds will not escape once the seed head bursts open. Gently remove the seed head after it has burst.
Before you can plant the seeds you will need to pre-chill them for three weeks. Plant them in the fall in the warmer zones giving them a light covering of soil. In the northern part of their range you might want to use a cold frame. It seems ironic to go to such lengths to grow these plants when they’ll grow naturally in the wild, but we must remember that we aren’t Mother Nature, so we must take more elaborate methods.
Indian Pinks take some years to spread. However, once established they are almost indestructible besides being a thing of beauty and a joy forever.