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Drought tolerant, blue false indigo is suitable for restoration and conservation, meadow areas, and use as a landscape ornamental.

Drought tolerant, blue false indigo is suitable for restoration and conservation, meadow areas, and use as a landscape ornamental. USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 5 October 2012). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

Baptisia australis

Blue false indigo

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Baptisia australis is a dense shrubby perennial with attractive blue-green leaves.  In late spring, blue to indigo pea-shaped flowers are held aloft on upright flower stalks.  A patch of Baptisia australis in full bloom is a sight to behold - reminiscent of exotic lupines or Texas bluebonnets on steroids.  A plant of such beauty should be a prima donna but this species thrives in harsh conditions and once established is durable and long lived.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  The range of Baptisia australis reaches into Canada and extends through most of the central and eastern United States. 

This species is indigenous in prairies and pastures, along tree lines, in rocky open woodlands, and along rocky creek banks.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Baptisia australis is densely branched with a mounding form and glaucous trifoliate leaves.

Plants are anchored by a sturdy branched taproot.  Dramatic asparagus-like buds emerge from the roots in spring already topped with immature flower buds.

As plants attain their mature height, the flower buds unfurl into a striking display of deep indigo pea-like blooms.  The flowers are arranged in erect racemes and are frequented by bees and butterflies.

The flowers evolve into inflated deep purple pods that are unique and attractive landscape features. 

Plants grow 3-4’ tall with 3-4’ spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDSBaptisia australis grows best in full sun or light shade in well drained average to moist soil.

Young plants expend a good bit of energy producing deep roots.  As a result they tend to get off to a slow start.  Around the third year when roots are established, the upper half of the plant begins to flourish.

Plants tolerate drought and controlled burns.  They are pest resistant and somewhat unpalatable to deer, rabbits and livestock.

After establishment, excess shade and competition from neighboring plants are the only things that can inhibit the growth of this tough guy.

LANDSCAPE USES:  This is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden, Prairie or Dry Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants, Butterfly Host Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting.   Baptisia australis has Showy Blooms, attractive fruit and can be used in Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings and Perennial Borders                                                                                            

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing with Asclepias tuberosa, Echinacea purpurea, Eryngium yuccifolium, Rudbeckia hirta, Solidago speciosa, and Sorghastrum nutans.

Baptisia tinctoria has similar flowers and foliage and can be substituted if needed.

TRIVIA:  Baptisia australis was named the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association and one of the top 200 plants of the last 200 years by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Plants host caterpillars of Frosted Elfin, Eastern Tailed Blue, Wild Indigo Duskywing, Clouded Sulfur and Orange Sulfur Butterflies as well as the caterpillars of moths and skippers.

Cherokee Indians and early settlers prepared a blue dye from Baptisia australis roots. When the exotic but superior true indigo plant became available, it was used instead. The common name false blue indigo, however, remained attached to Baptisia australis. 

Plant sap turns an inky blue color when exposed to the air.


Height:

3-4 ft

Spread:

3-4 ft

Spacing:

6-8 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone:

4-8

Bloom Color:

Purple Red

Baptisia australis Characteristics

Exposure

  • Full Sun

Critter Resistance

  • Deer Resistant

Attracts Wildlife

  • Pollinators
  • Butterflies

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Dry

Attributes

  • Favorite
  • East-Coast Native
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Clay Soil
  • Bog
  • Naturalizing
  • Rain Garden
  • Interesting Foliage

Flowering Months

  • June
  • May

Foliage Color

  • Green

Salt Tolerance

  • Medium

Interesting Notes:

For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=BAAU


Plants that work well with Baptisia australis ''

Shining bluestar Shining bluestar (Amsonia illustris)
Bluestar, Blue Dogbane Bluestar, Blue Dogbane (Amsonia tabernaemontana)
Willow leaf Bluestar Willow leaf Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana v. salicifolia)
Bluestar Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontani 'Grande')
Showy goldenrod Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
Lanceleaf tickseed Lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Greater tickseed Greater tickseed (Coreopsis major)
Beard tongue Beard tongue (Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red')
Iron Butterfly ironweed Iron Butterfly ironweed (Vernonia lettermannii 'Iron Butterfly')

Substitutions for Baptisia australis

Lead plant Lead plant (Amorpha canascens)
Yellow wild indigo Yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
Purple Prairie Clover Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)