False indigo is an attractive, shrubby perennial that blooms in late spring in colors of yellow, blue or purple. Plants emerge in the spring looking like black asparagus shoots. The shoots elongate into large, rounded, shrub-like plants with gray-green leaves and dark stems. Once the flowers have finished blooming, they form attractive, black seed pods which remain on the plant for winter interest. A tough, drought-tolerant perennial, these plants work beautifully all year to provide structure and color in the garden. Many interesting hybrids have been developed due to breeding efforts in the last ten years.
Baptisia hybrids are shrub-like plants that range in size between 2 and 4 feet tall and wide.
Native geographic location and habitat:
This plant is native to the eastern and southeastern United States.
Attracts birds or pollinators:
This perennial attracts butterflies.
Leaves are formed by three leaflets that are 1 1/2 to 3 inches long. Foliage is an attractive blue-green which turns black with heavy frost.
Flowers form on the top of plants in long panicles of pink, blue, purple, or yellow. Individual one inch flowers are shaped like sweet-pea flowers.
The fruit is a 2 to 3 inch pod that turns black as it matures. It will hang on the plant most of the winter if the plant is not cut back earlier.
False indigo is best grown in full sun. Plants are slow growing and do not require regular division. Their large tap roots make transplanting them difficult. The plants get quite large, so allow adequate room for growth. Allow plants to remain up over the winter to preserve the black seed pods for winter interest in the garden.
List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:
False indigo does not have any serious pest problems, but the plant may require staking in part shade. It is deer and rabbit resistant and drought-tolerant once established.
Many interesting hybrids have been developed due to breeding efforts, providing an array of bloom colors.
Midnight Prairieblues false indigo (Baptisia ‘Midnight’):
This cultivar has deep blue flowers on extra long stems that are produced in two cycles, allowing the plant to bloom for nearly a month. Mature plants measure 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. A Chicagoland Grows ® introduction.
Pink Truffles false indigo (Baptisia ‘Pink Truffles’):
This cultivar has pale pink flowers with a yellow bud. The flowers lighten to lavender as they age. This cultivar stays more compact than the species, only reaching 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
Purple Smoke false indigo (Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’):
This is a strong grower with light purple flowers and dark gray-purple stems. The cultivar stays upright, reaching 2 to 3 feet high and wide.
Solar Flare false indigo (Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’):
Flowers open yellow and then blush orange with time on a vase-shaped plant. Mature size is 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide with up to 100 stems at maturity. A Chicagoland Grows ® introduction.
Starlite Prairieblues false indigo (Baptisia x bicolor ‘Starlite’):
A moderately-sized false indigo that grows only 3 feet tall. This cultivar has 24 inch multi-colored flowers that range from lavender to periwinkle with a contrasting yellow accent. A Chicagoland Grows ® introduction.
Twilite Prairieblues false indigo (Baptisia x variicolor ‘Twilite’):
This cultivar produces long-lasting smoky purple blooms with a yellow accent. Flowers bloom for several weeks. Mature plants measure 3 to 5 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide. A Chicagoland Grows ® introduction.
Vanilla Cream false indigo (Baptisia ‘Vanilla Cream’):
Smaller in size than many of the other cultivars. It grows 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall and wide and has cream colored flowers on dark stems.