June: Blue False Indigo

Summer is here, and with it the hazy purple of blue false indigo. This medium to tall native plant makes an excellent backdrop for a perennial border, as it's cloud of blue-violet flower spikes soften edges and seem to extend space.

Blue 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 blue false indigo to thrive even in poor soils, and it benefits the other plants around it as well. The showy black seed pods that follow the flowers are also an indicator that it is a member of the bean family. These interesting 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. As I mentioned earlier, this perennial is native to Indiana, which means it attracts native birds and beneficial insects (including butterflies!) and naturally adapts to our soils and weather.

baptisia australis indiana nature conservancy

Common Name: Blue False Indigo

Scientific Name: Baptisia australis

Notable Varieties: 'Purple Smoke' (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 butterflies; enriches soil; great for rain gardens; its cousin White False Indigo (Baptisia alba) is another great native very similar to Baptisia australis, but with white flowers and June-July bloom period

See other plants of the month.

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