Garden Design, This Month

Baptisia australis or False Indigo

Baptisia is a beautiful addition to the flower garden creating an impressive backdrop in the perennial border. The cut flowers and blue-green foliage are lovely in arrangements.

This plant becomes a sub shrub ultimately reaching 4‘ high and 4’ wide, dying back to the ground in winter. It produces tall spikes of lovely pea like flowers in May and June. Plants are available with blue, white, or yellow flowers with newer introductions in combinations of those shades. In late summer the flowers turn into large charcoal black seed pods which add a lot of interest to fall arrangements.

Baptisia forms a deep tap root which resents disturbance. Once established in the garden it is very difficult to transplant so be sure to place it in its permanent location. The tap root allows the plant to tolerate extended periods of drought and heat. It requires well drained soil and prefers full sun but can take some shade.

Baptisia attracts butterflies. Deer do not seem to like it. One reason reportedly is because deer do not like blue flowers. Another is that the cut stem produces a milky substance that they find distasteful. Voles can attack the root system. They can do extensive damage — just replant what remains and leave for a year to establish a new root system. It will recover beautifully and can be planted back into the garden.