Baptisia australis 

baptisia   Perennial of the Month-- May 1999 L Perry charicature

(bap-tease' ee-ah aus-tral' iss)

Common name: False Blue Indigo

Family: Fabaceae, Bean or Pea

Height x width: 3-4' tall x 6' wide, upright to spreading

Growth rate: slow, develops large clumps over time

Foliage: alternate, gray-green, 3-parted compound leaves, some with stipules (small, leaf-like structures) as leaf bases, leaflets 1 ½" and ovate to oblanceolate; thick stems to ½" across

Flowers: indigo blue pea-like 1" flowers in spring up to 4 weeks, 5-many in terminal racemes  

Hardiness: USDA zones 3 through 8

Soil: well-drained, prefers deep and rich, tolerates poor and sandy

Light: sun, tolerates part shade but may grow leggy

Pests and problems: few, voles when young

Landscape habit, uses: herbaceous shrub in borders, specimen, cottage gardens, prairies, native plant gardens; nice dark brown pods with seeds rattling inside add nice fall interest; black foliage and stems in late winter contrasts nicely with tan color of upright grasses; combines well with bluestars, Carolina lupine, perennial geraniums, ornamental grasses

Other interest: native to eastern U.S.; genus name from Greek bapto meaning to dip, refering to past use as substitute dye for indigo; black seed pods 1-2" attractive in fall, nice sound in the garden with seeds rattling inside; Perennial Plant of the Year for 2010

Other culture: good low maintenance plant; resents transplanting, deeply rooted; may need staking if not in full sun; divide only if needed; site properly with sufficient space to avoid need to divide or move; cutting back by a third after flowering keeps plants more busy later in season so no need to stake, but this prevent attractive seed pods forming; cut back in spring or late winter to enjoy fall and winter effects; seldom self sows

Propagation: seeds, division (spring), cuttings; sow seed fresh (when black) for best germination, or otherwise scarify with sandpaper prior to sowing

Sources:  many, check your local garden stores, and online catalogs 


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