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Baptisia (False Indigo)

The False Indigo (Baptisia) is native to the United States, with several species occurring naturally. Many hybrids now exist to bring home gardeners to best color and growth habit for use in modern gardens, while still providing the charm and graceful beauty false indigo is known for.

Plant Highlight: Baptisia (False Indigo) Botanical Name: Baptisia spp. Hardiness Zones: Zones 3-9 Bloom Time and Color: Most native Baptisia's have blue flowers, however new varieties and cultivars are enhancing gardener's choices. False Indigo generally blooms late spring through early summer. Plant Category: A flowering perennial, Baptisia is a member of the pea family and blooms often resemble pea blossoms but are held on upright stalks, rather than growing on vines. Foliage: In spring attractive "asparagus-like" new growth appears and quickly forms graceful mounds of three-lobed leaves that stay attractive all season long. The dense foliage is a true bonus in any garden bed or border. Growth Habit: Round growth habit is well-behaved and pleasing in the garden with flowers born in upright clusters on tall stalks. Baptisia is never intrusive in the garden setting. Dimensions: Varies according to variety and cultivar but generally 2-4' tall and 3-4' wide. Preferred Conditions: Full sun to partial shade, false indigo prefers rich humusy soil that is well-drained. Maintenance: Baptisia grows on a thick taproot so once the plants are established they are semi-drought tolerant and long-lived. Division is not needed, and can be difficult because of the taproot. Pests or Diseases: No series pests or diseases. Baptisia is a long-lived and healthy plant. Propagation Methods: Division is possible, but difficult. Cuttings can be taken in the summer, or seeds set in the fall or early spring. Many garden centers carry stunning cultivars as bedding plants ready to add directly to the garden. Seed coverings are hard so germination is hard and not all seeds are viable; soaking for 24-48 hours helps. Companion Plants: Baptisia lends itself well as a companion for many other plants. Pair with other late spring flowering plants such as Siberian Iris, or peonies. Contrast foliage with ornamental grasses. Consider other meadow flowers such as 'Mango Meadowbrite' Echinaecea or asters. Another very pleasing combination is a blue variety Baptisia such as B. australis or B. 'Purple Smoke' with the attractive yellow blooms of the Coreopsis auriculata 'Nana' planted in front. Seasons of Interest: In spring the new growth is interesting and attractive. In summer the foliage and flowers are gorgeous. Fall and winter interest is maintained through the black shiny seedpods that form, creating a dramatic contrast to other plants and winter snows. Uses in the Garden: Baptisia lends itself well to both formal and informal gardens; the upright flower stalks have that informal cottage-garden feel, but the plants form beautiful, dense clumps making them easy to add to a formal garden. Great cut flowers, they also work well in a meadow setting or you can plant them in a color theme garden where the pleasing blue combines well with any other plant. Consider these hardy natives for a low-maintenance garden. Other Uses: The false indigo got its common name because the flowers were once used to dye fabric as a substitute for indigo coloring. Some enthusiasts still use them for this purpose today to create homemade blue fabric. Species and Varieties: B. australis: A native variety found wild in the Eastern US. Hardy in zones 3-9 this Baptisia has pleasing blue flowers 1" long carried in narrow clusters on upright stalks up to 4' tall. A great addition to the middle of your beds and borders. Hardy zones 4-9. For more info on purchasing this item click here. B. x 'Purple Smoke': A hybrid of B. alba (a naturally occurring white flowered variety) and B. australis mentioned above, this cultivar is more of a purple-blue color than its parent plant. A true lavender that is hard to find elsewhere in the garden world. Hardy zones 4-8. For more info on purchasing this item click here. B. x 'Screaming Yellow': A riot of yellow in late spring-early summer! Larry Loman of Ridgecrest Nursery in Wynne, Arkansas selected this brilliant yellow-gold Baptisia for the bodacious and profuse flower display, deep green foliage, and compact rounded habit. For more info on purchasing this item click here. B. x 'Solar Flare Prairieblues': Tall spikes of peas flowers start out yellow and fade to deep orange as they age,beautifully complimenting the emeraging yellow blooms above. Another great Baptisia from Chicago Land For more info click here. B. x 'Starlite Prairieblues': A new and second introduction from Chicagoland Grows, Starlite Prairieblues shines with soft blue pea flowers that glow white at the base for a sparkling overall appearance. A good strong grower with long spikes of flowers in early summer. Hardy zones 4-8. For more info click here. B. x 'Twilite Prairieblues': A hybrid of B. australis and B. sphaerocarpa (a shorter, yellow flowering variety) this cultivar is a stunning deep purple, almost burgundy flowering specimen with bright yellow accents highlighting each flower. Growing to 32" tall with more flower spikes on each plant than its wild parent, B. sphaerocarpa. Hardy zones 4-8. For more info click here. B. x 'Carolina': Sometimes called Carolina Moonlight, this cultivar is a hybrid of B. spaerocarpa and B. alba giving it pale yellow blooms. It is a rare cultivar that can be hard to find, but performs well in the garden. An easy color to blend in to any garden. Hardy zones 4-8. For more info click here. This 'Plant Highlight' was written exclusively for Sooner Plant Farm by Angela England .To read more from this talented writer about other highlighted plants and interesting gardening stories click here. All copyrights reserved by Sooner Plant Farm. No reproduction of this article in whole or in part is allowed without the permission of Sooner Plant Farm.


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