Baptisia Fairegarden seedling cross

Baptisia Fairegarden seedling cross

It was long ago that the Baptisia ssp. joined the Fairegarden, around 1992. (All of my gardens are named Fairegarden.) It was two moves ago, in our first Tennessee home in the far northeast corner of the state. Gardening had begun in earnest when our youngest child started first grade. Books and magazines were scoured for ideas to use on our one acre sloping property. The idea of an all white garden was very appealing after reading about Sissinghurst. Little did I dream that one day I would actually visit the white garden created by Vita Sackville-West. Click here-part one and here-part two to read that story.

Baptisia alba

Baptisia alba

Back to the topic after a little stroll through the memory vault. Seed and plant catalogs were scanned for anything white or with silvery foliage. I really knew very little about gardening, what would grow where and such. One of the first perennials added to the newly created Herb Garden was Baptisia alba. Three plants were mail ordered from Holbrook Farms, #21940, 3 @ $19.26. (I keep plant lists from way back.) They were the highlight of the white spring garden, so unusual and beautiful with their blackish stems and pure white pea-like flowers. They were planted in a ring around the base of a young white double flowering crab apple tree that came with the property. This tree was included in the creation of the Herb Garden and it was the beginning of my pruning career. My husband what somewhat dismayed that I had cut nearly every branch so drastically, but I had a vision. The following spring it bloomed so beautifully and had a nice shape. He no longer questions my pruning, having given up on having a say in it, wisely.

Baptisia alba

Baptisia alba

Fast forward, such a quaint phrase, to the here and now. We are older and wiser, especially in the realm of gardening, but the Baptisias still hold our hearts. There is something about them, the blueish foliage, the upright stalks as they form buds and the blooms themselves. Even the seedpods are delightful, and we have successfully grown healthy plants from collected seeds here. Some of those turned out to be a mix of the solid blue and white forms growing near each other.

Baptisia Carolina Moonlight

Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’

Recently, named varieties have been offered in the markets and I gave in to a few of those even though we already had plenty. Baptisia ‘Carolina Moonlight’, a cross between B. sphaerocarpa x B.alba was the first named addition and it is a beauty.

Baptisia Twilight Prairieblues

Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairieblues’

A couple of years ago Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairieblues’ joined the ranks of the Fairelurie. This is the first year for blooms and it is a lovely thing. This hybrid resulted from a controlled F1 cross performed in 1998 in Glencoe, Illinois between blue-flowered Baptisia australis (female parent) and yellow-flowered Baptisia sphaerocarpa (male parent). I am not sure that amongst the pink muhly grass was the best place for it, but this is one plant that does not like to be moved, foiling my usual gardening technique. Last summer Baptisia ‘Solar Flare’ was planted on the Daylily Hill to give interest before the daylilies began blooming but after the daffodils were done. Again, probably not the best placement. Will I never learn? Probably not.

Baptisia australis

Baptisia australis

Some plant facts about Baptisia:

Common Name: false indigo
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Zone: 3 to 9
Native Range: Eastern United States
Height: 3 to 4 feet
Spread: 3 to 4 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Color: Blue, white and yellow
Bloom Description: Pea type flowers
Sun: Full sun to part shade, best in full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low, shearing after bloom to keep from flopping, but will lose seedpods
Flowers: Showy Flowers
Fruit: Showy Fruit, blackish seedpods rattle when dried
Wildlife: Attracts Butterflies,deer and rabbit resistant
Tolerates: Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow, Rocky Soil, Drought
Uses: Erosion Control, Will Naturalize, extremely long lived once established

Long lived is right. After planting the seedling crosses, shown in the opening photo and above, in the newly created Yellow/White Bed, we were unhappy with the blobs of foliage they became after blooming was done. For all the room the Baptisias took up, I wanted more color for the summer and fall. The offer was made to my good friend Christopher of Outside Clyde that he could have them if he would dig them out. The story of his visit can be read by clicking here.

June 23, 2009 Christopher 022 (2)
Dig them out he did, all of them, after first cutting back the foliage. Only a strong man’s muscles could have gotten those huge root balls out intact. Funny thing though, they have all grown back since then. The plants that replaced them have grown large enough to be able to fight for territory in this bed, so all is well. Baptisias have a will to live!


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16 Responses to Baptisias

  1. gail says:

    They are the best flowering plants and I love, love, love them. Wonderful photos, especially the Fairegarden crossing. I recommend one more from the Chicago series~’Starlight Prairie Blues’, it’s a sweet gentle blue and white bicolor. You know, they are all scrumptious! xoxxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks for dropping by. I remember those amazing Baptisias in Chicago well. They were magnificent.

  2. Carol says:

    Every garden should have at least one Baptisia!

    Hi Carol, so true. But which one is the question? They are all so pretty!

  3. They All grew back from root pieces? Interesting. Most of them did survive being transplanted though they were set back in size significantly and have been very slow to recover. I have planted many more, mostly ones I have grown from seed. They grow. They bloom. None have reached a size of any substance that competes well with the Lush. I wonder if my cool inhibits them.

    Hi Christopher, yes, they all grew back, although it took several years to do so. I know about the moving and slowness to recover. I dug and moved the B. alba from Texas, which had been moved from the other TN garden and it has never again gotten large and lush. Better to just buy new or grow from seeds, is the lesson for me. It seems even the seedlings need lots of time to establish. I don’t know how or why they were so large in Chicago.

  4. Anne Boykin says:

    Hi Frances, My garden is still young and developing. I want to grow Baptisia some day when I expand my garden beds. I did grow it in my last garden and really enjoyed the foliage and the flowers. Didn’t know that there was a white variety. As always, thanks for your enjoyable blog.

    Hi Anne, thanks so much for those kind words. I hope you do add some Baptisia to your young garden. Any of them are lovely.

  5. I have yet to grow any myself, but it seems they are almost like shrubs that die back every year.

    Yes, similar to a medium sized deciduous shrub, Kathy. They are beautiful.

  6. Pearl says:

    I have Baptisia Australis and it’s blooming right now. Took quite a few years to get blooms but it was worth the wait. It’s gorgeous!! Would love to have the yellow one too.

    Hi Pearl, thanks for adding to the conversation here. It does seem to take a few years for the Baptisias to hit their stride, but once they do, they are long lived. The paler yellow Carolina Moonlight is exquisite, though sterile so there will not be seedpod interest.

  7. I have just one Baptisia australis, but it is probably 8 years old and is a major presence, with a diameter of at least 3 feet. I’ve never thought of removing it – that would be a lot of work! Also, i think it isa beautiful plant, even after blooming.

    Hi Jason, thanks for joining in here. One is enough, actually, and does take up quite a bit of room for a perennial. Lucky for me, I had someone who was willing to dig mine up, never dreaming they would grow back at all.

  8. Lola says:

    A beauty for sure. Just wish I had room for them here. I had the same situation with a rose.

    Hi Lola, thanks. I wish you had room, too, they are worth the space I have come to realize.

  9. Elizabeth McLeod says:

    They are so delicate and beautiful. I wonder if I could grow them here in the moist rain forest of western Canada? Thanks for another walk through this garden. I appreciate all your posts. North Carolina is a very favorite state as I have friends who live in Nags Head. I’ve been twice and I loved it as did my son and family. Cheers and happy gardening.

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for visiting and cheers to you! We used to vacation in Nags Head long ago, it is a great spot. There is only one way to find out if the Baptisias will grow for you….

  10. Christy says:

    Hi Frances….I just love Baptisias! You have so many beautiful ones…I really like that Twilight Prairieblues and will have to get one. I recently bought two Dutch Chocolate and they were really pretty too!

    Hi Christy, thanks for stopping by. Your new Baptisias sound yummy! I need to look for that one for my Black Garden, methinks.

  11. Dee Nash says:

    You’ve got some good baptisias there my friend. I love them too. I’ve never had seedlings though. I think my soil doesn’t make them happy enough. I do have the white one, two blue ones, ‘Purple Smoke,’ and the yellow. I bought a named one the other day. Haven’t found a place to put it yet. Wish I had you here to help me.

    Hi Dee, thanks for adding to the conversation here. Only the blue B. australis seems to make seedpods here, that I have noticed, and not every year. I would love that Purple Smoke, too. Will keep a lookout for it.

  12. I don’t have Baptisias in my garden, but have long admired them in others’ gardens and as highlighted on garden blogs. Such a unique shape and interesting colors. You have an amazing collection! (Please come to my house to prune my shrubs. I seriously need help.) 😉

    Hi Beth, thanks for stopping by. My pruning days for hire or free are over, but my advice would be to grab the snips and start whacking! HA

  13. Nell Jean says:

    they are all lovely!

    Last year I had glorious seedpods on my native white Baptisias. This year something knocked them off, maybe the mower. Fortunately I planted seeds indoors last year and have seedlings of significant size this year.

    Hi Nell Jean, thanks for visiting, so nice to see you again. That is great news that you have significant sized seedlings, woohoo! I like the white flowered dark stems ones the best, but don’t tell the others.

  14. Natalie Witt says:

    “I don’t have Baptisias in my garden, but have long admired them in others’ gardens and as highlighted on garden blogs. Such a unique shape and interesting colors. You have an amazing collection!”

    Couldn’t agree more..

    Thanks, Natalie, and welcome!

  15. Indeed it has a very unique as well as interesting colors..

    Hi Phillip, thanks for stopping by. The Baptisias are unique and lovely.

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