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Baptisia

Baptisia

Commonly known as false indigo, this rugged native prairie plant features tall spires of colorful blooms along with attractive blue-green foliage. Flowers are followed by large clusters of showy seed pods that dry out as they mature and create a rattling noise in the breeze.

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Light:

Part Sun, Sun

Type:

Height:

From 1 to 8 feet

Width:

From 2 to 5 feet

Flower Color:

Foliage Color:

Seasonal Features:

Problem Solvers:

Zones:

3-8

Propagation

Colorful Combinations

Early on, most baptisia plants produced flowers in shades of blue. Today gardeners can find varieties that flower in shades of white, pink, yellow, red, and chocolate brown—as well as in bi-color combinations. False indigo's blue-green foliage looks appealing year round. This plant resembles purple blush asparagus shoots as it emerges from the ground in spring.

These long-living perennials will give you garden color for years.

Baptisia Care Must-Knows

Plant false indigo in well-drained soil and full sun for the most impressive flower display. This perennial tolerates part shade, but can end up a floppy plant that requires staking for support. Once each plant gets established, it can withstand droughts without much supplemental watering thanks to a deep, extensive root system. The bad news is this root system—with its long tap root—means baptisia does not like to be transplanted.

Check out more of the top drought-tolerant perennials for the South here.

The good news is baptisia needs little maintenance. Cut the plant back to the ground after the first frost in fall or before new growth emerges in the spring. Some of the newer varieties grow large enough to resemble shrubs; trim them back to about 1/3 of the original size after blooming to keep them looking maintained.

New Innovations

Baptisia began to gain popularity in the early 2000s when some of the first interspecific hybrids brought new palettes of color and more compact habits. Today breeders are working to develop additional varieties with bicolor blossoms.

See flowering perennial varieties from fall to spring.

More Varieties of Baptisia

Baptisia australis

Baptisia australis has blue-green foliage that is attractive even when not in bloom and, because of its size (3-4 feet tall), makes an excellent shrub substitute. Zones 3-9

Lesser baptisia

Baptisia australis minor is a smaller version of baptisia, growing to only 2 feet tall and blooming slightly later. Zones 3-9

'Purple Smoke' baptisia

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' is an older variety with smoky violet flowers held loosely above gray-green foliage. Zones 4-9

'Starlite Prairieblues' baptisia

Baptisia 'Starlite Prairieblues' is a hybrid between two species of baptisia. Its bicolored flowers are lavender blue and cream with a touch of yellow. It grows to 3 feet tall. Zones 4-8

Plant Baptisia With:

Black-Eyed Susan
Add a pool of sunshine to the garden with a massed planting of black-eyed Susan. From midsummer, these tough native plants bloom their golden heads off in sun or light shade and mix well with other perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Tall varieties look especially appropriate among shrubs, which in turn provide support. Add black-eyed Susans to wildflower meadows or native plant gardens for a naturalized look. Average soil is sufficient for black-eyed Susans, but it should be able to hold moisture fairly well.
Coneflower
Purple coneflower is so easy to grow and attractive and draws so many birds and butterflies that you simply must grow it, if you have the room. Valued for its large sturdy daisylike flowers with dropping petals, this prairie native will spread easily in good soil and full sun. It is bothered by few pests or diseases. It's a great cut flower -- bring in armloads of it to brighten the house. And birds and butterflies love it. Allow it to spread so that you have at least a small stand of it. Let the flowers go to seed and the goldfinches will love you, coming to feast on the seeds daily. Butterflies and helpful bees also love purple coneflower.It used to be that rosy purple or white were the only choices in flower color. Recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy, cream, and shades in between.
Perennial Geranium
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, hardy geranium bears little flowers for months at a time. It produces jewel-tone, saucer-shape flowers and mounds of handsome, lobed foliage. It needs full sun, but otherwise it is a tough and reliable plant, thriving in a wide assortment of soils. Many of the best are hybrids. Perennial geraniums may form large colonies.
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