Plant of the Month - Baptisia

Plant of the Month - Baptisia

Baptisia Plant, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights July 2017. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-july-2017
Baptisia plant. Notice the leaf arrangement and the light green colored pods forming

Summertime is full of fun, water, and flowers. A great flower for spring and early summer color with a fun fall interest is Baptisia.

Baptisia, Baptisia australis, is also called Blue False Indigo. This is a large perennial that grows up to 4 feet tall and wide. It blooms on stalks with pea-like blue, white, or yellow flowers. However, the blue is often seen more as a purple color. The leaves are arranged alternately on the stems and are compound with 3 oblong leaflets per leaf. The foliage of Baptisia is a deep green to gray-green color. Following the flowers, the seed pods on Baptisia develop, which are very interesting. The seeds are enveloped in a puffy bean-like pod that develops as a green color and turn a black color in the fall when they mature. The seeds are enclosed freely in the pod allowing it to make a rattle-like sound when shaken. The seed pods can be left through the winter months for winter interest to your landscape.

As stated above, there are a lot of choices for color in the Baptisia plant. The straight species of Baptisia is very tall, but there is a dwarf version, it is Baptisia australis var. minor which grows up to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. There are a lot of different species and variety choices of Baptisia minor making it very easy to find the color, or selection of colors, to fit your landscape. There is a Decadence Series that was developed with many different color choices including a brown from ‘Dutch Chocolate’, a red and yellow mixed flower from ‘Cherries Jubilee’, and a creamy white of ‘Vanilla Cream’. Baptisia lactea is a good selection for white flowers.

Baptisia grows best in full sun to part shade with average to dry soils. It can be grown as a specimen plant or in groupings for more effect. It has a long season of interest so it can be used in many locations in your landscape to make it more interesting, even in winter. This plant is not one that does well if it is transplanted once it is larger in size, so pick a good location when planting. Baptisia can be grown from seed, however, there is a weevil that will attack the seed.

According to Clemson University, Baptisia comes from the Greek word bapto which means to dip or dye because the plants were used by Native Americans to make a blue dye. Settlers also used the plants to make this blue dye. Baptisia is also said to be deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant and drought tolerant, making it a great choice for Nebraska landscapes.

Baptisia is a great plant to give you color in the spring and unique interest with the seedheads during the fall and winter. It tends to be avoided by deer browsing which makes it beneficial for acreages where deer are common. Go to the nursery and pick out the best color choices for your landscape and add some baptisia for spring color and fall fun with the seedheads.

Nicole Stoner
Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator - Horticulture

As a professional horticulturist, Nicole's focus areas include trees, shrubs, lawns, gardens, and insects.

Gage County Extension
1115 West Scott
Beatrice, NE
68310-3514
402-223-1384

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