En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - July 14, 2010

From: Bend, OR
Region: Northwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: When are seeds of Indian paintbrush mature from Bend OR
Answered by: Barbara Medford


How do I know when to collect seeds of Indian paintbrush - when are they mature?


There are 50 species of the genus Castilleja native to North America and 17 native to Oregon, so we searched those for one that seemed most likely to be growing in your area. Castilleja applegatei (wavyleaf Indian paintbrush) grows in Deschutes County, OR according to the USDA Plant Profile. It also looks very similar to the Indian Paintbrush that we are familiar with in Texas and we will use it for our example. 

We found no Propagation Instructions on this specific Paintbrush, so we are quoting these from the most common Texas paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa.


Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Seed in open, sunny sites for best results. Indian paintbrush seed may require a cold wet period in the winter to germinate. Plant the seed in the fall and rake it into loose topsoil to ensure good seed/soil contact. Seeds are exceptionally small (4 million seeds per pound), commercially available, depending on the previous year’s seed crop and can be expensive. The recommended seeding rate in 1/4 pound per acre.
Seed Collection: Seeds are formed in capsules at the base of each flower. Seed capsules may be carefully collected by hand April – May when the capsules are dry and brown.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: After flowering ceases, allow seeds to completely mature before mowing for reseeding or collecting to plant in a new area. Since C. indivisa is an annual, it is essential that this species be allowed to reseed for an abundant display for the following year."

From the website Dave's Garden, we found these instructions on the specific Castilleja applegatei (wavyleaf Indian paintbrush) from personal experience:

"I've since collected seeds from that original plant and have now established this paintbrush in over 20 locations in my garden. I simply collected the seeds as soon as the stems appeared completely dry and scattered them immediately upon the surface of bare un-amended soil somewhere near a known host plant--such as Wright's Buckwheat--'Eriogonum wrightii'. My original Applegate's Paintbrush is also still flourishing and expanding it's terrritory in my dry rocky soil, but the Scarlet Penstemon from which it sprang seems to have succumbed to the parasitical nature of the castilleja." 

The timing of collecting the seeds of Castilleja indivisa (entireleaf Indian paintbrush) may be a little off, since we are in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a and you appear to be in Zone 6a. In you were in Texas, it would already be past the time for collecting seeds, but in Oregon, this may be the time. As you note in the references above, the seeds are very tiny. The plant is an annual, so reseeding from the original is really the only way to keep the flowers in your garden, short of buying seeds every year. You also need to remember that this plant is hemi-parasitic, requiring that there be nitrogen fixing plants in the near vicinity for use by the paintbrush roots. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Castilleja applegatei

Castilleja applegatei

Castilleja indivisa

Castilleja indivisa





More Propagation Questions

Both large and small Century plants putting up stems from Cayucos CA
November 18, 2013 - I have a Century Plant that is sending up a stem. I am excited to see it bloom. I noticed that one of the small pups, about 4 inches tall, is also sending up a stem. I have not found a mention of pups...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of native plants by seed in Round Rock TX
February 26, 2011 - I'm trying to include more native and adapted low water use plants in the landscaping of my yard in Round Rock Texas. Due to a limited budget I've been collecting seeds from plants around the area ...
view the full question and answer

What to do with agave after it blooms from Phoenix AZ
March 12, 2013 - Hello! I have 2 century plants in the process of blooming. How exciting!! I've never really seen it before. Anyway, what do I then do with the dying/dead plant. Simply dig it up and trash it? T...
view the full question and answer

Planting instructions for Ilex verticillata in Wisconsin
September 02, 2008 - We have a winterberry tree and we would like to grow another one in a different area. Can we transplant part of that or do we need to start from scratch? How would we know what the male plant looks li...
view the full question and answer

Tx Mt. Laurel and Mex. Buckeye seed propagation in drought
July 01, 2011 - I live in the Hill Country near New Braunfels. Since I am only at my house in July and August, I would like to plant both Texas Mountain Laurel and Mexican Buckeye from the seeds harvested from mothe...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center