Baptisia Not Blooming

Baptisia australisQuestion: I planted Baptisia australis last spring (2010) because I saw it recommended everywhere as the “Plant of the Year.” It never bloomed last spring or this past spring though one down the block has already bloomed and gone over. What am I doing wrong? It’s in full sun. I’m disappointed!

Answer: Don’t give up hope on your Baptisia australis, also known as false indigo. It really is a great plant that deserves the recognition it won in 2010 as Perennial Plant of the Year.

The thing with baptisias is that they’re a little slow to grow. They have a long taproot to develop (which also makes transplanting them difficult—their other drawback). On the “plus” side for this taproot, it makes them fairly drought tolerant.

It can take a young, newly planted baptisia two or three years to be settled in enough to bloom. 2012 just may be the year for yours!

Happily, false indigo is an extremely long-lived perennial . . . those couple seasons of no bloom will be just a tiny fragment of your plant’s history.

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9 thoughts on “Baptisia Not Blooming

  1. Hi
    My false indigo never showed flowers this year but I did get the green pods and then they turned black. Has anyone else experienced this? And do you know why this would happen? Thanks!

  2. I grew a Baptisia from seed and it took 25 years to bloom. Even now it doesn’t reliably bloom every year. Don’t give in; don’t give up. It’s all part of the great experiment called gardening.

  3. Definitely check for voles – we lose a few to this every year, as we do asiatic lillies. Also, seems to prefer alkaline soil (at least this is what I hear) as it grows like crazy in suburban Chicago in that clayey alkaline crud that passes for soil – where we first encountered it. Ours in Massachusetts self seeds and blooms reliably in Western Mass. Don’t give up though – this is the fun of gardening.

  4. Maybe I’ve just had good luck with my Baptisias. In about 1974 my parents had some landscaping done and a clump of Baptisia was put in along with the peonies. Several years later a nearby fir tree began crowding the flowers. I think this was probably the mid 80’s. My Dad and I dug up the Baptisias and transplanted them, dividing them into 11 clumps. They have been there ever since and bloom every year. They are between my house and the neighbor’s and are shaded from both morning and afternoon sun. I have over the years given pieces of them to several friends and also planted some on my farm. Only one friend had trouble with them. I have usually transplanted in the spring when they are just breaking the ground. The ones I took to the farm were neglected, and 2 years ago I dug up what was left of 2 or 3 of them in the summer and brought them in, planting them on the west side of my house. There are only about 5 or 6 stems in that clump, but they have bloomed both last year and this year. I know that when Dad dug them he went very deep to get the tap root, but I don’t have that much strength and they seem to grow with not much root at all, maybe 4 or 6 inches. Last August my cousin’s daughter was getting married and we cut lots of the seed pods and my cousin used them in arrangements at the reception. When I had my plants at the farm, they bloomed and were not bothered by the deer, who ate all of my gladiolas and several peonies and lilies. I have also had some grow from seed, not because I planted it, but just by volunteer. Those also have grown up and bloomed.

  5. Failure can be voles or field mice eating the roots rather than hardpan. I have lost several previously magnificent clumps to the voles, and some Compass Plant as well. I expect that the seedlings will do well, but I have to find a way to keep the voles out of them. We see the tunnels in the dead grass when the snow melts, and the piles of dug out dirt by the failing clumps of Baptisia.

    The foliage is a big part of what makes this group of plants a good garden subject. It continues to grow way down into the summer, long after blooming is finished, so it continues to look fresh even in the late summer garden when its shape and texture nicely complement the towering warm season grasses.

  6. Give it at least another year. The one I planted last spring (2010) produced few flowers that year, but this year it was gorgeous. I was just thinking this morning that I need to cut the seed pods to avoid having little baptisias everywhere. With full sun, it seems perfectly happy in my garden, even though I also have a layer of clay under a layer of good clay loam. It also seems to enjoy being heavily mulched.

  7. I have had a hard time growing Baptisia because the taproot is so long it goes down and hits my hardpan clay, then the plant dies. Does anyone know long long the “extremely long” taproot is? After having my first Baptisia die, I dug and amended a hole 4 feet deep, adding course sand to improve drainage. My replacement Baptisia thrived for a couple of years then it died out except for a couple of seedlings. Any ideas?

  8. If you have deer in the area, check to see if they have eaten the flower buds. I had no blooms last year because the deer ate all the buds. Liquid Fence did the trick this year. It is a beautiful plant and worth the effort, stick with it.


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