Natives are in for 2010! The new 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year is Baptisia australis. A wonderful, blue-flowering, sun-loving perennial native hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Known as False Blue Indigo, the genus name comes from the Greek word "bapto" which means "to dye" because some of the darker flowered species were used as dyes.
It sports blue spikes of pea-shaped flowers resembling the tall racemes of lupines in May and early June. It's slow to mature, but very rewarding native garden perennial. Found in open woods, river banks and sandy floodplains, New York to Nebraska to Georgia.
According to North Creek Nurseries, 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.
In partially shaded gardens the plants need support, but if grown in full sun, 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.
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.
Garden Media Group