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Baptisia Is To Dye For!

Baptisia Is To Dye For!

Posted by Bloomin Designs Nursery on 20th Feb 2023

What is there not to like about Baptisia false indigo? It is a tough perennial, beautiful in flower, with handsome foliage and wonderful ornamental fruit. A number of species of Baptisia are native to much of the United States and Canada. There are dozens of others available in a rainbow of colors. If your garden is large enough, you can have them all.

This native plant known as “false indigo” has deep roots – in the garden, and in American history. Now an ornamental favorite, it was once prized and even subsidized by the British government for the blue dye made from its sap. The common name, False Indigo originated during the seventeen hundred’s European wars, when England’s supply of valuable blue indigo dye from the tropics was cut off. The Crown paid colonists to grow Baptisia as a substitute.

Baptisia australis sends up erect racemes of purple/blue lupine-like flowers in late spring. The blooms give way to decorative green seed pods that ripen to charcoal black. Flowers, foliage and seed pods in all color stages are all valuable as cut flowers, with exceptional vase life.

Native from Pennsylvania south into the Carolinas, and hardy in zones 3 – 9, the plants stand 3 – 4’ tall. Clover-like foliage is an attractive blue-green.

Genus Name: Comes from the Greek Bapto, “to dye.”

Australis does not mean it’s from Down Under, but Australia’s and this plant’s name both mean “southern,” perhaps a vague reference to where in the Colonies it was first collected by European plant hunters.