How to Grow and Care for Baptisias
Theese tough, dependable, long-lived perennial make an impressive statement in the garden, growing as much as 3 to 4 feet tall. The most common species found in gardens baptisia
, also known as blue wild indigo, has spires of blue flowers in late spring and early summer and was used by early American colonists as a dye plant. But other species and hybrids bloom in a wide variety of colors.
Baptisias are native to the central and southeastern U.S. In spring and early summer, their clover-like foliage is topped by spires of pea-like blooms. Baptisias grow slowly at first, but after a few years forms an attractive, upright mound up to 4 feet across. A mass planting of baptisia in full bloom is a striking sight. Both the flowers and the seed pods are attractive in bouquets. Hardiness varies with species, but most grow well in Zones 5-8.
Choosing a site to grow baptisias
Baptisias do best in full sun and well-drained soil of average fertility. If planted in part shade they may need staking to prevent sprawling. Once established, they are reasonably drought tolerant.
Container plants can be set out any time during the growing season. Space most plants at least 3 feet apart. Mature plants can be 4 feet wide and resent disturbance, so give young plants plenty of space to grow into. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.
Baptisia forms a deep taproot, making it difficult to transplant, so choose the planting site carefully. Unlike many other perennials, baptisia clumps don't need dividing. Although it's possible to divide the deep, gnarly root mass, it's risky and you may end up damaging the plant so much that it can't recover. If you want more plants you can propagate them by seed or cuttings. Baptisias have few insect and disease problems and are usually ignored by deer.