It’s a gorgeous, easy-care North American native plant with year-round interest.
Sadly, I don’t grow it because I don’t have much full-sun space (it can take some shade but needs staking—and I’m just not up for that).
But I should find a spot for it somewhere; it’s resistant to deer browsing because alkaloids in the plant give it a bitter taste.
Plant in well-drained soil; it’s drought-tolerant once established.
It’s hardy almost anywhere, from Zones 3 to 9.
Violet-blue flowers in early summer last about 3 to 4 weeks, then create beautiful brown seed pods that look great in dried flower arrangements.
Use it in the back of the border; it grows 3 to 4 feet tall in a clump about that wide.
Don’t divide and move baptisia. Because it grows with a long tap root, once you plant it, it wants to stay put. That’s part of its low-maintenance charm.
The common name, false indigo, comes because it was used as a substitute dye for the true indigo plant. The Latin name is derived from the Greek word bapto, meaning to dip or immerse; australis is Latin for southern.
Check out plantsman Tony Avent’s article about baptisias—he calls them “Redneck Lupines.”
Where can you get it? Baptisia is available from many mail-order sources, including Tony’s Plant Delights (he carries six different baptisias), Jung Seed (with four from the PrairieBlues series developed at the Chicago Botanic Garden) and Garden Crossings, a Michigan-based mail-order company (six kinds).
Go with this oldie. It’s a goodie.