Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Plant Profile: Baptisia australis (Prairie False Indigo)
A few weeks after our offer was finalized and accepted, the previous owner graciously provided us a detailed tour of the yard, noting names and qualities of many of the plants she had grown for her five years as the property's caretaker.
She went on and on about a plant located on the southwest corner of the deck that she called "false indigo" and I had never seen or heard of before. Her enthusiasm was enough to cause me great intrigue as we moved in later that spring. Now, ten years later, I share her love of this plant I now know as Baptisia australis. When the spring and summer conditions are right, it is without compare my favorite plant in the garden.
Baptisia (Zones 3-9) grows a deep tap root, making it difficult to dig, so I have never divided the large clump. However, I have successfully transplanted two offshoots that began to grow 9-12 inches away from the central cluster. In two growing seasons, these offshoots have grown into 12-18" wide, healthy plants of their own. One is tucked in between Miscanthus and a pink-flowering Weigela underneath our bedroom window, and the other makes a complimentary companion to the Clematis jackmanii and Picea pungens 'Fat Albert' (blue spruce) in our front border.
A number of new varieties (including white and yellow flowered cultivars) are now available on the market, and more will likely appear now that Baptisia australis has been named the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.