The native known as “false indigo” has deep roots – in the garden, and in American history. Now an ornamental favorite, it was once prized and even subsidized by the British government for the blue dye made from its sap.
Baptisia sends up erect racemes of purple/blue lupine-like flowers in late spring. The blooms give way to decorative green seed pods that ripen to charcoal black. Flowers, foliage and seed pods in all color stages are all valuable as cut flowers, with exceptional vase life.
Native from Pennsylvania south into the Carolinas, and hardy in Zones 3 – 9, the plants stand 3 – 4’ tall. Clover-like foliage is an attractive blue green.
The Game of the Name
Genus Name: Comes from the Greek Bapto, “to dye.”
Common Name, False Indigo: When one of her many wars cut off England’s supply of valuable blue indigo dye from the tropics in the 1700s, the Crown paid colonists to grow Baptisia as a substitute.
Real Indigo: Indigofera tinctoria. You know indigo. It’s the "I" in Roy G. Biv. And it’s in your jeans… sort of. The erstwhile dye of kings is now synthesized.