8 Kinds of RED Wildflowers in California (w/Pics)

Did you find a RED wildflower in California?

Types of red wildflowers in California

If so, I’m sure you’re wondering what type of wildflower you found! Luckily, you can use this guide to help you identify it. ūüôā

Please be aware that I’m ONLY listing the most common red wildflowers today. There are so many species, varieties, and subspecies that it would be impossible to name them all. But if you want to dive even deeper into ALL the red wildflowers in California, check out this field guide!

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8 RED wildflowers in California.


#1. Pitcher Plant

  • Sarracenia purpurea

Also known as: Purple Pitcher Plant, Northern Pitcher Plant

Red wildflowers in California

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 8-16 in (20-41 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Mid Spring
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

You might be surprised to know that the Pitcher Plant is carnivorous and can capture a wide range of animals! Although they’re primarily insectivores, frogs, lizards, newts, and even Spotted Salamanders are on the menu.

Pitcher plants get their name from goblet-shaped leaves that help them catch their prey. The leaves fill with water, and insects and other small animals fall in and can’t get out. Eventually, the insect drowns, and enzymes made by the plant digest its meal.

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You can easily distinguish Pitcher Plants by their purple-veined leaves that grow into the shape of a pitcher or cup. The pitchers are about 6 inches (15 cm) long with a large lip. A leafless stalk grows from the middle, and a single reddish-purple flower blooms at the top.


#2. Cardinal Flower

  • Lobelia cardinalis

Also known as: Red Bay, Scarlet Lobelia, Indian Pink, Water Gladiole, Slinkweed, Bog Sage, Hog’s Physic

California red wildflowers

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9a
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 3.6-72 in (9-183 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Mid Summer to Early Fall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

The blooms on this red wildflower in California cluster on the end of a long stalk. The Cardinal Flower has dark green leaves with purple undersides.

If you’re especially fond of hummingbirds, you can use the Cardinal Flower to attract them to your neighborhood. While other insects might find it hard to reach the sweet nectar inside, the tubular flowers are perfect for the long beaks of hummingbirds.

Cardinal Flowers grow well in a garden setting. Plant it in an area with partial sun for a beautiful pop of red that will attract hummingbirds!


#3. Spotted Coralroot

  • Corallorhiza maculata

Also known as: Summer Coralroot, Speckled Coral Root, Many-flowered Coral Root

Types of red wildflowers in California

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 3.9-31 in (10-79 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Early Summer
  • Sun Exposure: Partial Shade to Full Shade

This red wildflower is commonly found in wooded areas in California.

The most interesting feature of Spotted Coralroot is that it doesn’t have any leaves! Instead, the bare stalks produce clusters of flowers. Since this plant isn’t capable of photosynthesis, it siphons nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi, which is a natural fungus that occurs in its roots.

Mining bees are especially attracted to Spotted Coralroot. Although they pollinate this native orchid, it can also self-pollinate by transferring its pollen as its flower opens.


#4. Prairie Smoke

  • Geum triflorum

Also known as: Red Avens, Three-flowered Avens, Old Man’s Whiskers

Red wildflowers in California

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 6-18 in (15-46 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Mid Spring to Early Summer
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Prairie Smoke is one of the most striking red wildflowers in California.

Its green leaves turn red, purple, or orange in colder seasons. It produces bright red flower buds that droop from long stems during the spring.

However, the real show starts when the flowers start to seed. They open to reveal feathery, silvery-pink seed heads that unfurl into puffy clouds. It’s easy to mistake these wispy pink plumes for smoke, which is how they got their common name, Prairie Smoke.


#5. Painted-leaf

  • Euphorbia cyathophora

Also known as: Wild Poinsettia

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-11
  • Life Cycle: Annual
  • Approximate Mature Size: 28-35 in (71-89 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Spring to Fall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

You can easily identify the Painted-leaf by its fiddle-shaped leaves with blotches of reddish pink near the base. Their coloring gives them a painted look, which is where their common name came from. You might mistake these colorful leaves as petals, but if you take a closer look, you will see that the true flowers are small and yellow.

This red wildflower in California¬†grows in many different soil types, and it’s common across its range. So you’re likely to spot it in habitats ranging from forest edges to open fields.


#6. Scarlet Gilia

  • Ipomopsis aggregata

Also known as: Scarlet Trumpet, Skyrocket

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9
  • Life Cycle: Biennial or Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 12-60 in (30-152 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Late Spring to Fall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

The Scarlet Gilia is also called Skunk Flower for its potent putrid odor. However, that won’t stop long-tongued moths and hummingbirds from enjoying the sweet nectar inside the flowers.

The nickname “Skyrocket” is especially fitting for this red wildflower in California.

Its pointed, long petals extend from a central flower and look like a vibrant firework!


#7. Blanket Flower

  • Gaillardia pulchella

Also known as: Indian Blanket, Indian Blanketflower, Beach Blanket-flower, Firewheel, Sundance

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-11
  • Life Cycle: Annual
  • Approximate Mature Size: 12-24 in (30-61cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Summer to Early Fall
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Blanket Flower is a sunflower with an impressive display of red, orange, and yellow petals. Don’t be surprised if you spot many bees and birds where these flowers grow!

Many beekeepers use Blanket Flower in the production of honey. The honey made from this red wildflower is mild, buttery, and amber-colored.

Goldfinches enjoy the seeds of Blanket Flower, so don’t forget to leave some seedheads after the flowering season!


#8. Pinedrops

  • Pterospora andromedea

Also known as: Giant Pinedrops, Woodland Pinedrops, Giant Bird’s Nest

Growing Information

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Approximate Mature Size: 12-79 in (30-201 cm) tall
  • Bloom Time: Early Summer to Mid Summer
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Pinedrops spend most of their life as a clump of fleshy roots underground. Without leaves, Pinedrops don’t need chlorophyll like other plants do. Instead, they are parasitic and steal nutrients from their host plants.

Sometimes, the roots of the Pinedrops will sprout tall, stiff, reddish-purple stems that will grow upright without branches. From these stems, you will see urn-shaped yellow, pink, or white flowers which face downward.


What are your FAVORITE red wildflowers in California?

Let us know in the COMMENTS below!

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