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Baptisia (bap-TEEZ-ee-uh)

Common Name:  False indigo

Light:  - Full sun to part sun

Soil:  Average to rich, moist but well-drained

Moisture:  Average to slightly moist

Blooms:  Early summer

Zones:  varies by species


Baptisia australis

Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'

Baptisia Description and Cultural Information

Baptisia alba, white wild indigo. 2 - 3'. A compact shrubby plant with pure white pea-like flowers on charcoal gray stems in May to mid-June. Zones 3 - 8.

Baptisia australis, blue false indigo. 3' - 4'. This plant has blue flowers on tall spikes above blue-green foliage. The flowers are similar to sweet peas or lupines. Plants grow from a huge taproot, so moving them is difficult when they are mature. Baptisia 'Purple Smoke' is a hybrid with B. alba that has charcoal gray stems and violet-blue flowers. Zones 3 - 8.

Baptisia sphaerocarpa, yellow wild indigo. 2 - 3'. This North American native has vivid to buttery yellow flowers over blue-green foliage. They are a bit slow to develop, usually blooming by their 3rd or 4th season, but are long lived and tend to be very drought resistant and tolerant of poor soils. 'Carolina Moonlight' is a hybrid with B. alba with grayish stems and soft yellow flowers. 'Screaming Yellow' is a brilliant golden-yellow cultivar. Zones 5 - 9.

Baptisia hybrids recently introduced by the Chicago Botanical Gardens include Baptisia 'Twilite Prairieblues' PPAF, a hybrid cross between B. australis and B. sphaerocarpa with violet-purple to near burgundy flowers with a bright yellow stripe between the petals, Baptisia 'Solar Flare' PPAF, which starts out bright yellow and ages to orange, and Baptisia 'Starlite Prairieblues' PPAF with soft blue flowers. These are expected to be hardy in zones 4 - 8.

How to Grow:  Baptisias are easy to grow, long lived perennials of shrublike proportions. Plant them in average to rich, well-drained soil in full sun to light shade. They grow slowly at first but eventually form large clumps. Space plants at least 3' apart. Once mature they are tough to move, so plant them in a permanent location when young. If you do need to move a large plant dig up as much as you can while dormant in the fall or spring and then replant with the crown completely covered.

Landscape Uses:  False indigo is an excellent plant for the back of the perennial border where its flowers, foliage, and black seed pods all add beauty to the garden. Combine them with other early summer bloomers such as peonies, poppies, iris and lilies plus they make a great backdrop to late summer flowering perennials such as russian sage (Perovskia), baby's breath (Gypsophilia), asters and purple coneflowers (Echinacea).

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