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Baptisia australis (false blue indigo)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Baptisia australis

false blue indigo

Blue spikes of pea-shaped flowers resemble the tall racemes of lupines in May and early June. A slow to mature, but very rewarding native garden perennial. Found in open woods, river banks and sandy floodplains, New York to Nebraska to Georgia.

Baptisia australis LP50 - 50 per flat Availability
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3-4 Feet


3-4 Feet


24-36 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8

false blue indigo Interesting Notes

The Perennial Plant Association's 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year™

This is the most cold hardy species and performs well over a wider range of environments than others. In the early spring, it is one of the first plants to emerge, and the gray-green leaves quickly fill out into a substantial sized bush. The 10-12" long, flowering stalks arise in the spring, carrying 1" long, indigo-blue, pea-like flowers which last for about 4 weeks. Although the flowers are violet-blue, there is much variation when plants are raised from seed. Flowers will vary from light to deep indigo blue, the latter much preferable to the former. The flowers were once used as indigo but are now simply viewed as good garden plants. Two to 2 ½" long brown to black pods appear in early summer and remain until the plant dies back in the fall. The pods become dry by midsummer, and the seeds inside rattle around and should be collected at this time. Arrangers find these pods attractive and use them as dried ornaments in the house. In my partially shaded garden, I must support my plants; if grown in full sun, however, no staking is required. The plant spreads by rhizomes (slowly) and consumes considerable garden space. It does not require dividing from the plant's point of view, but division every 4-5 years may be beneficial to ease overcrowding. - Allan Armitage

Blue false indigo is a beautiful, long-lived, drought tolerant perennial with a robust habit and attractive foliage. In late May, its intensely saturated violet-blue flower spikes rise above 3-4’ tall multi-stemmed plants with bluish-green foliage. Baptisia australis prefers full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained to dry, and low nutrient soils. However, in too much shade or high nutrient soils, this plant flops over. Blue false indigo makes a stunning statement in the perennial border or naturalized in meadows. Combine this plant with Schizachyrium scopariumAndropogon virginicusPackera anonymaPhlox pilosaSisyrinchium angustifolium, and Penstemon digitalis. - Mt. Cuba Center

The genus name comes from the Greek word "bapto" which means "to dye" because some of the darker flowered species were used as dyes.

Baptisia australis Growing and Maintenance Tips

Grow in full sun average to dry soil. Baptisia has a very deep tap root, giving it the ability to survive long dry periods and making it a challenge to move once it is established. Move in the early spring if you must.

Good Substitutions

wild indigo Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'
wild indigo Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'
wild indigo Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'
wild indigo Baptisia sphaerocarpa 'Screaming Yellow'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Spring / Early Summer
Green Infrastructure
For Animals
Caution: Toxic
Native to North America
Ornamental Foliage
Propagation Type
Open pollinated