In recent years there has been a surge of interest in native plants. Plant enthusiasts treasure them for their hardiness, adaptability and their beauty. Baptisia is one of the great native plants for the mixed perennial border. It can be grown in any garden with full sun and well-drained soil. The plant has a long taproot and resents disturbance but this characteristic also makes it very drought tolerant. You need to give them room; most grow to be 1 meter wide and equally as tall in about five years. Once established, Baptisias thrive on neglect and make a great statement in the border with very little maintenance required.
The most readily available species is Baptisia australis, commonly known as Blue False Indigo. This selection has been named “Perennial Plant of the Year” for 2010. The deep blue to violet flowers emerge in the spring atop dark green stems that can reach a meter in height with almost as wide a spread at maturity. The plant habit is upright and self-supporting and the foliage is lush and attractive throughout the season. Even the seedpods are ornamental.
Like all members of the bean family the flowers have the characteristic wing and keel petals followed by bean like fruit. 'Purple Smoke' is a hybrid cross of the blue and white Baptisia and has lovely violet blue flowers. Baptisia sphaerocarpa is a gorgeous yellow form and Baptisia alba is white. 'Carolina Moonlight' is a very soft yellow and produces upwards of 30 long spikes on a compact bushy plant in mid June. Other colour forms are now appearing on the market as hybridizers work with this terrific native. Make sure you give it a spot in your sunny border this year.
photo courtesy Walter's Gardens