June 7, 2022
Among iconic garden staples and exciting new selections, unique and versatile perennial classics can help to liven up traditional perennial beds and set your space apart from the rest, with Baptisia providing robust structure and multi-season interest perfect as your next garden addition.
Baptisia australis (Bap-TIS-ee-uh aw-STRA-liss), also known as Blue False Indigo or Wild Indigo, named for its historic use as a substitute source of indigo dye (typically sourced from True Indigo, Indigofera tinctoria), is a phenomenal late spring to early summer blooming herbaceous perennial native to east central Canada and the eastern United States, including right here in Minnesota. A member of the legume family, Fabaceae, and naturally occurring in diverse habitats from woodland borders, to stream and river shores, to open meadows and prairies, Baptisia is a wonderfully versatile, long-lived, and hardy choice.
A large, shrub-like herbaceous perennial, Blue False Indigo should be planted with its mature form in mind, developing a healthy tap root system for the first two to three seasons before flourishing into a stunning plant three to four feet tall and wide, whereafter it should not be transplanted or moved to ensure the health of the tap root system. Abundant blue-green foliage emerges in early spring, maturing into an attractive vase shape in late spring before blooms emerge. Elegant racemes of sweet pea-like flowers rise high above their foliage, wonderful for pollinators, especially bees, and excellent as cut flowers. While the native Baptisia blooms a beautiful indigo blue, there are several exciting cultivars available for every space as well, including the soft purple flowers of Baptisia x ‘Purple Smoke’ and the lively pink and yellow bicolor blooms of Baptisia Decadence Deluxe ‘Pink Lemonade.’ After blooming, spent flowers develop into attractive dark seed pods which shake and rattle in the late fall and winter, offering unique multi-season interest.
Drought tolerant once established, deer and rabbit resistant, and preferring well-drained soils in areas of full sun, Baptisia is a rugged and versatile selection for any design, from cottage gardens to natural designs, to pollinator gardens, native restorations, and more.