Content Detail

Leadplant is an upright, rounded shrub, native to the Midwest, that does well in dry sandy to clay soil; the attractive gray-green foliage adds nice contrast in rock gardens.  The purplish-blue flower spikes in June and July serve as a host to caterpillars, as well as a nectar source for butterflies, and a food source for birds. 

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.   

  • Family (English) Pea
  • Family (botanic) Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)
  • Tree or plant type Perennial, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet), Small shrub (3-5 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Dry soil, Sandy soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought
  • Season of interest early summer
  • Flower color and fragrance Blue, Purple
  • Shape or form Mounded, Round
  • Growth rate Slow

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 9. It is native to the Midwest and Great Plains and commonly found in dry prairies.

Attracts birds & butterflies:

Leadplant is a nectar source for butterflies such as the painted lady, red admiral, fritillaries, sulphurs, and blues. The seeds attract birds, including the goldfinch, sparrow, titmouse, and junco.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves grow as alternate, compound leaves with 15 to 45 pairs of oval-shaped leaflets. They are attractive, gray-green in color, and  add a nice contrast in rock gardens.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are a lavender-blue color with yellow anthers occurring on multiple terminal spikes. It flowers during June and July.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Seeds are flattened, 1/4 inch seed pods that persist into winter and are not ornamentally important.

Plant care: 

Leadplant grows 2 to 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide. It is a tallgrass prairie native that has an upright, densely compact habit. Grows best in sunny, well-drained to dry soil. Although this is a woody shrub, it often dies to the ground in winter and may be cut to the ground in early spring.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

This shrub has no serious problems.


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