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Baptisia australis

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Photo Courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.
 Common Name: False Indigo-Blue

A distinctive perennial with showy indigo-blue flowers carried on tapering spikes up to 1ft. long. They are held just above the dense, bushy mounds of soft blue-green foliage. The blooms appear from mid to late spring, followed by 2-3 in. long, black seed pods which remain attractive well into winter. They can be dried for use in arrangements.




Baptisia australis is native to the prairies of North America, so it is easy to grow and will thrive with little maintenance. There are many potential applications in the landscape including meadow plantings, as a backdrop in borders, or as a specimen. Plants are very long-lived once established.

Origin: Native Species

Characteristics:



Height:
  4 Feet
Spread:
  3-4 Feet
Flower Color:
  Purple-blue shades
Foliage Color:
  Green shades
Hardiness Zone:
3,4,5,6,7,8,9
Find Your Zone
Sun or Shade?:
  Full sun (> 6 hrs. direct sun)
  Part shade (4-6 hrs. direct sun)
Wet or dry?:
  Low water needs
  Average water needs
Want to see wings?:
  Attracts butterflies
Need critter resistant plants?:
  Deer resistant
How fast should it grow?:
  Slow
When should it bloom?:
  Mid-spring
  Late spring
Looking for seasonal interest?:
  Attractive Seed Heads
How's your soil?:
  Poor Soil
  Average Soil
Sweet or Sour Soil?:
  Acidic Soil (pH < 7.0)
  Neutral Soil (pH = 7.0)
What's your garden style?:
  Prairie
  Rain Garden
  Eclectic

Attributes:

Border plants
Cut flower or foliage
Dried flower or seed heads
Drought Tolerant
Specimen or focal point

Awards:

  Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit 1993
  Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year 2010
  Missouri Botanical Garden Emeritus Plants of Merit

Homeowner Growing & Maintenance Tips:

Baptisia grows best in full sun, though it tolerates light shade. If grown in too much shade, plants may require staking. Baptisia is easily grown in poor to average soil that is well-drained. Once established, it is moderately drought tolerant because of its tough, deep taproot. This perennial native may take a couple of seasons to become established, but is very long-lived once mature. Avoid disturbing established clumps.

Homeowner Tip: Though Baptisia is a large perennial, it can be grown in smaller gardens if maintained a bit differently.  In early spring, set out a peony ring (circular wire stake) for the Baptisia to grow through.  This will help it to grow more upright and take up less horizontal space.  After the plant is finished blooming, prune it lightly throughout the season to keep its size in check.  Seed pods may not develop in fall due to the pruning, but the flowers and foliage will be beautiful.


Companions:

Common/Botanical Name
Zones  
Alchemilla mollis
Common Name: Lady's Mantle
3,4,5,6,7
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Geranium 'Brookside'
Common Name: Geranium-Hardy
4,5,6,7,8
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Oenothera missouriensis
Common Name: Sundrop-Ozark
3,4,5,6,7,8
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Paeonia 'Festiva Maxima'
Common Name: Peony-Garden
3,4,5,6,7,8
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Salvia nemorosa 'May Night' ('Mainacht')
Common Name: Salvia-Perennial
3,4,5,6,7,8
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Lupinus Popsicle Series-Mixed
Common Name: Lupine
4,5,6
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Fun Facts:

The genus name Baptisia comes from the Greek word bapto, meaning to dip, referring to its use as a substitute dye for indigo. The common name for Baptisia, False Indigo, also refers to this practice.

From the Fabaceae Family, or the Bean or Pea Family.

Tantalizing Trivia: Baptisia australis was the first ever subsidized agricultural crop in America.

 

While every effort has been made to describe this plant accurately, please keep in mind that the height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates throughout the country. The description of this plant was written based on our experience growing it in Michigan (USDA hardiness zone 5) and on numerous outside resources.