Summer is here, and with it the gorgeous flower spikes of false indigo. This shrub-like native plant makes an excellent backdrop for a perennial border, as it's cloud of dramatic flower spikes fill space and helps set a lovely backdrop. With new varieties coming out almost every year, there is a wonderful range of colors and some new size options as well.
False indigo is a clump-forming perennial with strong stems that rarely require staking. It is a member of the bean family, which means it's roots house Rhizobia bacteria that increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil. This allows false indigo to thrive even in poor soils, and it benefits the other plants around it as well. The showy black seed pods remain on the plant all the way into winter. After they have ripened, the seeds inside make a gentle rustling, rattling sound in the breeze. False indigo species are native to the U.S., which means they attracts native birds and beneficial insects (including butterflies!) and naturally adapt to our soils and weather. Blue and white false indigo are native to Indiana, so they are a closer fit for or our region than the hybrids, but they all benefit wildlife.
Common Name: False Indigo
Scientific Name: Baptisia species and hybrids, B. australis (blue) and B. alba (white) are native to Indiana
Notable Varieties: 'Purple Smoke' (purple flowers and dark grey flower stalks), Decadence hybrid series (more compact with brilliant color options)
Light: full to partial sun
Size: 3-4' tall and wide
Soil: tolerates poor, dry soils, but can also handle frequent soaking
Blooms: purple-blue (on straight species) in May-June
Other Notes: native plant, attracts pollinators, enriches soil, great for rain gardens, winter interest