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tuben

Indigo, to plant or not to plant

tuben
September 26, 2015

Does any one have any experience with planting Indigo or False Indigo? I want to try this plant. I need to know what a gardener has experienced with it and not what the books say.

Comments (13)

  • WoodsTea 6a MO

    I've got some Baptisia australis var. minor as well as one B. bracteata that I started from seed (plus inoculant) in early 2014. They stayed very small the first year and this year, although larger, each one of the minors consists of several floppy stems up to two feet long each. The bracteata only has a single stem, maybe 18 inches. All are in full sun but have been shaded somewhat by the grasses around them since midsummer.

    My understanding is that this plant takes a few years to get established while it's concentrating on its root system, so I'm hopeful that they may eventually have decent form (at least the minors -- I think the B. bracteata typically sprawls out to a degree).

    I've often read on these forums that the root systems (of B. australis in particular) get quite large and that people wanting to remove them have a tough time with it.

    tuben thanked WoodsTea 6a MO
  • tuben

    Thanks. I have a very sunny spot in which I'm going to put the plants. Do you know if they have any disease issues? I have to play with the soil a bit since it did have some downy mildew issues for some years. It seem to take the plants better this year with no die off.


  • edlincoln

    FYI, two different plants.

    I've made a few attempts to plant small ones at my Mom's place. The first bare root one came up a few times but never amounted to much, never bloomed and petered out. The large potted one I planted is doing well and bloomed the next year. It's growing near powdery mildew afflicted bee balm and I never had any problem with powdery mildew on the baptista australis. Never had much luck with seeds, but then, I rarely do.

    Has pretty pea like foliage and purple flowers briefly in the Spring. Sort of sprawls. Likes rocky soil. I have it in dry partial shade.

    tuben thanked edlincoln
  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Yes, two different plants. Indigo plant (Indigofera) is not native to the US - false indigo (Baptisia) is.

    I grow a hybrid false indigo (Baptisia x variicolor), a cross between B. australis and B. sphaerocarpa, 'Twilite Prairieblues'. A very easy to grow plant requiring only a lot of sun and good drainage. For a herbaceous perennial, gets to be of substantial size - mine is 4-5' tall and about 8' across. And they do develop big and deep root systems. I am aware of no particular disease or insect problems affecting this plant - mine grows and blooms beautifully with almost no human intervention :-) Although, this fall it IS going to get divided and relocated - just got way too big for its current spot.

    tuben thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • edlincoln

    They are supposed to take really badly to being divided, because of their tap root.

    tuben thanked edlincoln
  • tuben

    I'm only going to plant the native varieties. There are some dwarf ones like the Baptisia Minor and the Baptisia Nuttalliana, the later gets to be about three while the Minor is 1.5' to 2' which is perfect for the space it is going to fit in. And there is also a yellow variety that stays small. But thanks for all your advice one and all. I really appreciate it.


  • WoodsTea 6a MO

    Short height is why I chose the B. minor, but I suspect that with spikes it's going to be taller than that if it ever gets around to flowering -- maybe up to three feet.

    tuben thanked WoodsTea 6a MO
  • PRO
    Rachel's Landscape Design

    Baptista is an excellent plant and I often put it in my landscape design plans. You are right to think twice before planting it though as it is very difficult to get rid of once it is established. The deep root system is why it can withstand drought so well. I tried to divide my Baptista last year as it had spread 6' wide and ended up with 2 plants to share and one that came back from the original root that I couldn't remove!

    tuben thanked Rachel's Landscape Design
  • tuben

    Thanks. I had a lot of plants that had horrible root systems and I managed to rid my self of them. The Bamboo was the worst. But it, with a little help from Round Up, is gone. But I will keep that in mind.

  • bostedo (8a tx-dfw-blackland prairie)

    So..... which native "false indigo" are you actually asking about? Amorpha fruticosa is the first association for that common name in some parts of the country, while baptisia australis is better known as "blue false/wild indigo". Both are nice plants that can be found across large portions of north America.

    There is at least one named cultivar of A. fruticosa, but even generic plants can be very hard to find. Easy to start from readily available seeds, but like baptisia, can be slow to get going. Am guessing the much stronger presence of baptisia and its hybrids in the nursery trade is why it is the default "false indigo" for many folks, but amorpha is also worth some consideration in native plantings.

    tuben thanked bostedo (8a tx-dfw-blackland prairie)
  • PRO
    Rachel's Landscape Design

    I think we originally were talking about the commonly available Baptista australis. I haven't seen Amorpha fruticosa available but it sounds like it would be nice for native plantings.

    tuben thanked Rachel's Landscape Design
  • WoodsTea 6a MO

    I think also that A. fruticosa, being a mid to tall height shrub in the right environment, is harder to fit into a small garden. Sounds like tuben needs something pretty small.

    tuben thanked WoodsTea 6a MO
  • bostedo (8a tx-dfw-blackland prairie)

    Sounds like tuben needs something pretty small.

    Yeah, I missed it was the OP talking about planting one of the smaller varieties of Baptisia when I scanned the thread. If had been interested in Amorpha, would have cautioned it apparently can be aggressive in some northern parts of its range. Suppose to behave better where we are (TX), but our plants are still too young to evaluate. Where it does work, can be trained as a small tree with a thin canopy that can be under-planted.

    Figured a discussion about "False Indigo" on a native plant forum would benefit from mention that there are two widespread genera in North America known by this common name... especially when a search for "false indigo" in the Native Plant Database currently returns Amorpha rather than Baptisia.

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