Question: I read that the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year is blue false indigo (Baptisia australis). I'd like to grow it because I love blue flowers. What can you tell me about this plant?
Answer: Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is an excellent and adaptable native perennial, prized for its blue flowers in late spring, its decorative seed pods and its ease of care. It is generally deer proof—they don't like the taste—and untroubled by insects and diseases.
False indigo's blooms for 3 to 4 weeks, with 10- to 12-inch shoots of violet to blue flowers. Blue-black seed pods follow the flowers. The plant's leaves are bluish green and reminiscent of clover, only larger.
This plant works well in the back of a flower border, in a cottage garden or a meadow. It attracts butterflies.
Type of plant: Herbaceous perennial.
Origin: Woods, thickets and streambanks of the Mid-Atlantic United States, into the Midwest.
Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. The plant usually remains more narrowly upright until it blooms, after which it relaxes into a round shrubby shape.
Exposure: Full sun. Tolerates partial shade but flowering will be diminished and the plant may become leggy and need staking.
Soil: Prefers sandy soil but will tolerate a range of soil types as long as drainage is good.
Watering: Generally doesn't require supplemental watering. Tolerates drought once established.
Propagation: By seed. Do not divide mature clumps, because they have a large tap root and complex structure.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 9.