The Flower of the Hour – Baptisia Australis – The False Indigo That Proves Faithful and True

Garden — By on January 23, 2009 8:27 pm

Babtisia WinterWeek after week I have watched the red in the thermometer plummet. As it gets colder, most of us hurry in and out of our homes as quickly as possible. Dressed up in layers, it is not always opportune to catch visions of nature. Quite frankly, in Chicagoland sub-zero weather, I am too busy running and thinking of my freezing body parts to look at the all-but-dead perennial beds next to my driveway.

However, one day not too long ago, arms loaded, knit cap pulled down past my eyebrows, I walked past an open car door and was absolutely certain I heard a rattle snake. No kidding. A rattle snake.

Convinced this was the winter I had finally lost my mind from garden-withdrawal, I dropped my armload and walked past the car again listening carefully. A long, dead and rather bony arm of Baptisia Australis – or False Indigo – was sticking out beyond the garden into the driveway. My coat caught it as I walked by and the now blackened seed heads trembled and waved as I past. The seeds were still thick inside the heads and were making a delightful rattling noise when I touched it. The wind had the same effect and I stood outside for a half hour or so playing with the seed heads like a little girl.
In the early summer False Indigo comes alive with color. Long flower spikes of purple flowers wave above the green foliage. Small flowers which resemble “Sweet Pea’s” in size appear along the spikes, although there is very little scent. The flower is delightful and attracts all matter of butterfly’s and even hummingbirds.Baptisia Australis Closeup

Once the plants are established, it seems a completely indestructible plant and perfect for the often-salted by-way of my front drive. It is deer resistant, wet tolerant, tolerates salt, does not mind drought, and loves poor soil. Without a doubt, the beautiful Baptisia Australis is the “Flower of the Hour” and my choice for one of the best all around performing plants in the perennial bed.

Baptisia Australis

When the flower spikes are spent and looking dreary I cut off about two thirds of the unattractive flowers spikes, then bend down the other third of the flower tops without removing them, mixing them in with the foliage.

Saving a third of the spikes assures me I will have seed to spread in the spring – or a rattlesnake in my garden during the winter. Either way, it puts a smile on my face and happiness in my heart.

Keep dreaming of spring – and Baptisia Australis – it will be here before you know it!

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  1. Terra says:

    False indigo is very pretty. Someone tweeted about this post of yours on twitter so I had to come take a peek.
    I am

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am too from twitter as well. I have grown this in my garden and absolutely love the seed pods they produce. This is by far the best blue flower perennial I have grown in my garden. I’m

  3. I had two huge plants that were 3 years old. Suddenly, this summer– within only hours, some strange caterpillars (not the good kind) literally devoured both plants to nothing. It was like watching a cartoon character disintegrate before my eyes– only, it wasn’t funny. I have saved seeds in case the mother roots don’t come back this spring.


  4. Shane Carter says:

    That settles it. I am starting some False Indigo in my greenhouse so I’m ready for spring. Do you think it will start well from seed?

    Thanks for such a descriptive post (sights, sounds… good reading!)

  5. Shawna says:

    About the caterpillars – if it is well established, it just might come back – I’ll keep up hope for you.

    About the seeds. The best advice was on the GardenWeb Forum – by the way – what a wonderful resource for we gardeners, right?

    Here’s the link –

    I agree that it should be easy to get the seeds to germinate.

    The first year I had the Babtisia plants I spent a lot of time watering – they are a bit tough to establish and they do not like to be relocated once they have been established. So pick your spot well and enjoy!

    Take care!


  6. Mamma says:

    Hmmm. I have to see if I have seed heads. I didn’t cut my plant back at all this year. Should I? It’s totally dead above ground.

  7. Shawna says:

    I always wait until Spring to cut everything back. When you start seeing new babies being born at the gorund level, get out there and clean it up then!

  8. I look forward to planting the seeds you gave me last summer!

  9. We have just had in a shipment of Baptisia Australis – and your right- they do keep on going- even through rougher weather conditions.

  10. Are other cultivars of Baptisia as resiliant?

  11. Yes, In my opinion, most cultivars are fairly hardy and tough plants.


  12. Sister A says:

    Lovely plants. I haven't seen these before.

  13. Sister A says:

    I haven't seen these before but they are very nice.

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