Baptisia australis, commonly called False Indigo is an herbaceous perennial that is a member of the pea family. It is easy to grow and produces an attractive pea-like blossom in shades of light blue to deep violet in the warm months. Native Americans once used the plant to dye their woven fabrics, and early pioneers also used the plant this way. Some tribes used it medicinally.
False Indigo Hardiness
False Indigo grows as a native plant from Nebraska to Texas and to the Eastern states. It is rarely found along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. It ranges as far north as Canada and New Hampshire. However, this plant can grow in many other areas of the United States. False Indigo can withstand long periods of drought. It can also survive freezing temperatures for short periods without damage.
False Indigo Growth Habit
Baptisia australis grows with an upright habit until it begins to bloom, when it relaxes into a more shrubby form. The leaves are smooth and without serration at the edges. Leaves can be up to 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. The leaves are dark green in the summer and turn yellow in fall. The shrub bears colorful flowers from April in the South to August in the North. The flowers bloom for 3 to 4 weeks. False Indigo is propagated from the seed, which must be scarified, or scraped with sandpaper, in order to weaken the seed shell before attempting to germinate.
Uses For False Indigo
False Indigo is often used as a border plant for garden areas. The deep-blue flowers that bloom in spring adds a colorful note to any garden. The shrubs which grow up to 5 feet high and 3 feet wide make a good plant for lining driveways, sidewalks and other defined areas. Often found naturally in riparian areas, False Indigo presents well along the edges of ponds and rock gardens.
False Indigo Care
False Indigo does not grow well in shade. Allow it to have plenty of sun for it to thrive It prefers a gravelly, sandy or loamy soil. Do not use herbicides formulated to kill broadleaf weeds around False Indigo. These products can kill False Indigo. This species does not require a great deal of additional watering. Trim back foliage as it begins to die off in the fall.
Advantages of False Indigo
Baptisia australis is unlikely to become invasive and take over areas set aside for other plants in most regions of the country. This plant is also a native host for a number of butterfly species, including the Wild Indigo Duskywing, Eastern Tailed-Blue, Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur and Hoary Edge Butterfly. Like many plants of the legume family, False Indigo fixes nitrogen in the soil which is of benefit to other plants around it. Deer will avoid False Indigo because they dislike the taste.
This hardy native plant makes a good addition to you property for its ease of use, attractive foliage and lovely blue flowers.