Leaves, bracts and stems of castilleja chromosa
have a dense covering of short, rather bristly hairs. Stems are reddish-purple, and the leaves, while green in moist conditions, may also be purplish, either just along the edges or all over. Plants produce many stems, each topped by the inflorescence; bright red bracts, especially rich in color, and narrow tubular flowers, about one inch long. Flowers have a greenish corolla with a red-orange flange on each side, enclosed around the base by a reddish calyx. A curved stigma projects beyond the tip of the corolla.
Leaves are mostly simple, but those higher up the stems may be divided into a small number of lobes. Leaves and bracts are curved up somewhat at the edges. Plants at lower elevations usually flower just in the spring, but those in more mountainous locations can bloom late in the summer.