I cannot think of one good reason why spigelia (Spigelia marilandica) is not more popular. It is easy to grow, beautiful, and it’s a native wildflower.
The tubular flowers of spigelia are ruby red to carmine on the outside and open up at the end into a six-pointed star of buttery yellow or chartreuse. The plant itself gets about 12 to 24 inches tall and grows in light shade to almost full sun. (It gets leggier and doesn’t bloom as readily in shadier spots.) Spigelia blooms in May or June in Georgia. It is a perennial that dies to the ground in the fall and re-emerges in the spring.
Spigelia appreciates having organic matter added to the soil and does best with average soil moisture. I have grown it for years and never had any pest problems with it.
Spigelia also goes by the common names of pinkroot, Indian pink, and wormgrass – the latter referring to its use as a vermifuge, an agent that destroys and expels worms from the intestines. In fact, it was still being used during the Civil War. The Atlanta History Center has a medical display from the war with a bottle of Spigelia marilandica. I don’t recommend growing spigelia for its medicinal properties (an overdose can be fatal) although knowing a plant’s properties and its place in history does make it more interesting to me.
I have never seen hummingbirds at my spigelia, but other gardeners have. In fact, Operation RubyThroat, a hummingbird educational and research project (www.rubythroat.org), lists it as one of their top-ten native plants for hummingbirds. That’s just another reason to seek out this fascinating native perennial.
-- Arty Schronce
Arty Schronce lives and gardens in the historic Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta. He and the Georgia Department of Agriculture encourage all Georgians to discover the pleasures of plants and gardening.