Content Detail

Cream wild indigo has very attractive pea-type flowers, though the flowers are cream to yellow in color and the flower stalks tend to cascade under the weight of the blooms, unlike the similar flowers of the white wild indigo. This cascading effect can give cream wild indigo a look similar to a small shrub. This is a midspring to early summer perennial that is deer resistant. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.

  • Family (English) Pea
  • Family (botanic) Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Sandy soil, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest mid spring, late spring, early summer
  • Flower color and fragrance White, Yellow
  • Shape or form Arching, Mounded
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Wildlife Butterflies, Insect pollinators

Size and method of spreading: 
Typically, cream wild indigo is 1 to 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and spreads via seeds.

Native geographic location and habitat:
Cream wild indigo is native to the Midwestern states and centralized Southern states, along with Massachusetts and New Jersey. C Value: 10

Attracts birds or pollinators: 
Pollinated largely by queen bumblebees because it is an early blooming species, cream wild indigo is also visited by worker bumblebees, mason bees, and digger bees. Insects that feed on cream wild indigo include moth and butterfly larvae, larvae and adult wild indigo weevils, and skippers, including the wild indigo duskywing, which uses cream wild indigo as a larval host. Some other insects for which cream wild indigo serves as a larval host include various grasshoppers, leaf beetles, oligophagous thrips, and broad-headed bugs.

Leaf description:
Cream wild indigo has leaves that are pointed at the tips but rounded at the bottom (oblanceolate, elliptic, or rhombic-elliptic) in shape, alternate leaves that occur in threes (trifoliate) and attach to the plants like fingers on a hand (palmately compound), with two leaflike appendages at the base of the leaves (stipules) that are large and sometimes mistaken for additional leaves, though the stipules can fall off and may be absent. If present, stipules are longer than they are wide (lanceolate) and attached directly to the stem (sessile). Leaves have veins that resemble feathers (pinnate venation) and smooth edges (entire margins). Certain varieties (var. bracteata) may have hairs that grow against the leaves (appressed), whereas other varieties (var. glabrescens) are hairless (glabrous).

Flower description:
The flower of the plant is standard and pealike with a banner, a pair of wing petals, and a pair of keel petals. Flowers occur on individual stalks along an unbranched inflorescence that bloom from the bottom to the top (racemes) and face upwards toward the source of light. Each flower is approximately 1 inch in length. The flower petals are light yellow to cream in color and hairless, though the base of the flower (calyx) is light green to light purple in color and either hairless (glabrous) or covered in appressed hairs, depending on the variety.

Fruit description:
The plant produces large, fleshy, mostly empty seed pods that contain kidney-shaped seeds. The pods have a beak at the tip, and they turn black before opening to release the seeds.

Plant care: 

Once planted, cream wild indigo can be difficult to move due to the deep taproot that develops. 

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

No major pest or disease issues affect cream wild indigo. It tolerates drought and poor soils but prefers to have little competition.

Donate

Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift