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Learn all about the Baptisia, on this Focus on Flowers.

A Baptisia bulb.

Photo: gmayfield10 (Flickr)

Baptisia combine well with other June bloomers such as achillea, Shasta daisies, wild geraniums, and roses.

A rugged perennial plant that provides striking blue flowers in a June border is “Baptisia australis” commonly known as False Indigo.  It grows 2 -3 feet in full sun.  It is a member of the pea family with erect lupine-type flower racemes.

There are about twenty species in the genus and all are native to North America.  The botanical name, Baptisia, is from the Greek word “bapto” meaning “to dye” and the common name “false indigo” also refers to the plant’s use as a substitute for indigo dye.  There is also a wild white variety and a new bi color cross, which is violet with touches of lemon yellow.

All species are drought tolerant and hard to move once they are established because they have deep taproots.  Select their site with care, as the plants though slow to get established, thrive for years, eventually forming stately 3 – 4 feet clumps like little shrubs.  They have clean blue-green foliage with leaflets grouped in threes, and are very useful as cut flowers.

The dark seedpods are attractive both in the garden and in dried arrangements.  These plants combine well with other June bloomers such as achillea, Shasta daisies, wild geraniums, and roses.  Provide some support, such as a ring for them to grow through and they will always stand erect despite summer storms.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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  • C.Payne

    question: the leaves curl up – must this plant be well-watered? or should water be with-held? reason I ask is – we’ve had such rains, so I didn’t water separately, and now I see the leaves curling up.
    Also – the leaves are starting to turn a dark-gray blue – wondered if this is healthy? or is this an autumn phenomenon? also, since I didn’t purchase this until early July, did I miss the complete flowering of the blue “racemen”? Does it repeat?
    Thank you.

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