Common name: Blue false indigo
Baptisia australis: If you want to grow blue false indigo, you have picked both a beautiful and easy-to-care-for perennial. Its attractive pea family leaves are followed by indigo flowers on spikes in June - bringing both the bees and the butterflies. After flowering, the seed pods turn charcoal black. Then comes a different kind of treat. A treat for the ear. With just a light breeze, the seed pods begin to rattle.
Blue false indigo slowly grows to almost 2 m/6 ft high and 1 m/3 ft wide. When you plant this native to eastern North America, give it lots of room to grow. It can take up to two or three years to flower but the wait is worth it. While you wait, you can appreciate its leaves.
The genus name Baptisia comes from the Greek word ‘bapto’ meaning ‘to dye’. The common name of ‘blue false indigo’ refers to the use of native baptisias by early American colonists. It was a substitute for the true indigo of southern Asia (Indigofera tinctoria) in making dyes. Blue false indigo was an inferior substitute but much cheaper.
The pictures of blue false indigo were taken in June in bed 37. It is also growing in the Eastern North America Garden and its hybrids scattered about the garden.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones