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Is Baptisia Australis The Most Beautiful Plant in the World?

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

I have no idea, as I have not been around or seen every plant in the world. All I know is I cannot get enough of this gorgeous native plant into my gardens!

Baptisia australis are great plants for native gardens
Baptisia australis

It's very early June here in West Michigan, we are in a drought, and this plant - also known as blue wild indigo or blue false indigo is just as vibrant and colorful as ever! It has grey-green leaves divided into three leaflets and produces long spikes of indigo-blue flowers in late spring to early summer. For some, the flowers remind them of Lupines - I also think of Orchids.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, "The common name of false indigo refers to the use of certain native baptisias by early American colonists as a substitute, albeit inferior, for true indigo (genus Indigofera) in making dyes."

Baptisia australis are great for attracting wildlife to native gardens
Baptisia australis poking through some annual ryegrass

The plant is easy to grow and care for, as it tolerates drought, and poor soils, including clay. On my property, I have it growing in almost pure sand, dry clay, and just above a marshy area in part sun. Baptisia forms a large, upright clump reaching 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. It is a very long-lived perennial, attracting butterflies and other pollinators. And provides one of the most elusive colors in the plant world - blue.

If you find yourself in South Haven, Michigan, drive down Phoenix Street towards the Big Lake, and just after you cross Broadway heading into town (across from the farmer's market), look to the right, and marvel at the size of the Baptisia in the planter.

Baptisia australis spilling out of a street side planting in South Haven, Michigan.
Baptisia australis spilling out of a street- side planting in South Haven, Michigan.

While it looks like a good-sized bush, remember this plant is a perennial, completely disappearing into the ground during winter. What looks like asparagus tips in the springs grows into quite a plant speciman.

And the show does not stop after flowering. Once the blooms are spent, it develops black seed pods that resemble peas and rattle in the wind. The seed pods add tremendous fall and winter interest to the garden and can be used in dried arrangements. My friends who grow flowers for a living sell this plant at nearly every growth stage for flower arrangements.

The roots of Baptisia australis can grow up to 12 feet deep into the ground, which is one of the reasons it's so drought-tolerant and can be very difficult, if not impossible, to move without killing it.

That being said, my good friend Joan who gardens on the rocky, sandy, clay island of Martha's Vineyard - and who moves plants around like a point-and-click garden on a computer screen- successfully moved her Baptisia to another place in her garden. She is fearless when moving plants, but I don't recommend moving your Baptisia; just get another one!

Baptisia australis is great at attracting wildlife to native gardens

Baptisia australis is a great plant for low-maintenance native gardens
Baptisia australis seed pods

Wild Lupine  - another excellent plant for native gardens
Wild Lupine in my garden


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