One of Grumpy’s foremost duties as your horticultural Svengali is introducing you to worthy plants that belong in your garden, but inexplicably fly under the radar. So, faithful reader, meet Indian pink. You’d think a hardy plant that combines unique, eye-catching flowers with handsome, glossy foliage and a willingness to please would be commonplace. Yet few garden centers I’ve been to carry it.
Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) forms a cluster of upright stems that may eventually stand two feet tall. Depending on where you live, showy blossoms appear atop the stems for several weeks in late spring or summer. Each bright red, two-inch, tubular flower sports a yellow star at its mouth. If you like hummingbirds, plant this for them. They’ll send you appreciative emails with smiley emojis. As the plant grows, the clump gets wider and flowering stems multiply accordingly. To double your flowers in one year, pinch out the top of each stem when it’s a couple of inches high. Each pinched stem will produce two stems. Plants allowed to go to seed will spawn seedlings, but not obnoxiously so.
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Caring for this plant is rather simple. It grows well in USDA Zones 5 to 9. Give it fertile, well-drained soil. It tolerates both sun and light shade, but likes more water in sun. In shade, it needs no more water than hostas. The only pest to watch out for is a deer. If you have deer, spray Indian pink with a deer repellent such as Deer Off or Bobbex according to label directions. Indian pink dies to the ground in winter and is slow to sprout in spring. Place a marker next to it in fall, so you don’t accidentally dig into it.
Finding Indian pink to buy now won’t be easy, unless you’re lucky enough to live close by a native plant nursery. You can order it online from places like Mail Order Natives, but now is not the shipping season. You’ll have to wait until fall. Until then, do what you do with every post by Grumpy. Print it out and tape it to your refrigerator door so you’ll have it for handy reference. If you’ve run out of room, buy another refrigerator.