All That You Need To Know About Indigo Plant

Indigo plant

Emma Downey

Emma Downey
Gardening Expert

Updated on 12/4/2022

Along with the perennial sweet pea vine, the blue indigo plant, also known as Baptisia australis (pronounced: bap-TEE-zeeu aw-STRAL-is), is a herbaceous, hardy perennial flower that belongs to the family Fabaceae, which also includes peas.

It was awarded the title of Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association in 2010.It is native to the southeastern United States, where you can find it growing wild in dense woodlands, thickets, and along the edges of streams.

The word "to dye" comes from the Greek word "bapto," which is where this plant's genus name comes from. The specific epithet, australis, means southern. 

The usage of this plant as an alternative to real indigo in the production of blue dye is the inspiration for the common name of the plant, which is Blue False Indigo.

There are a few other names for the plant that you might come across:

Blue Indigo

  • Indigo Blue Wild Blue
  • Indigo with a Wild Blue Cast

Other types include the following:

  • A hybrid with a purple eye in the heart of blue blossoms, the Baptisia Purple Smoke variety.
  • Baptisia Twilite Prairieblues is a cross between B. australis and yellow Baptisia sphaerocarpa. It has buttery yellow and purple flowers.
  • The Baptisia White Wild Indigo, also known as Baptisia alba, is a plant that looks quite similar but with white flowers set against dark stems.

Blue Indigo Plant Care

Size And Growth

This perennial has a height and spread of around three to four feet, depending on the variety.

Indigo plant

Plants that have reached maturity will produce racemes, which will contribute between 12 and 24 inches to their overall height. The leaves have a bluish-green coloration and resemble clover in appearance. The hue of the trifoliate leaves can range from a dark blue-green to a pale yellow-green.

The leaves can become rather dense, giving the plant an appearance similar to that of a shrub.

Blooming And Flowers Scents 

You shouldn't anticipate the Baptisia to produce flowers in its first season. It may take the plants as long as three years to grow and start producing blossoms once they have been planted.

In the second year, from May through June, blue blossoms of the Wild Indigo plant will develop. They are quite similar in appearance to the flowers of pea plants, sweet peas, and lupines. Encourages the presence of butterflies and other pollinators.

Indigo plant blooms, which resemble peas, occur on tall spikes that rise well above the foliage of the plant.

During the late spring and early summer months, the flower spikes continue to bloom for around six weeks. When they are fully mature, the flowers transform into huge seed pods that go on to take on a dark, almost-black color.

When combined with dried flowers, they create a beautiful display. In addition to this, they are particularly fascinating since the seeds shake about inside the pods. These seed pods were repurposed at one time into toys for toddlers to use as rattles.

April, May, June, and July are the months when the flower is in bloom.

Both Light And Temperature

This plant does best when grown in a location that receives full sun to partial shade. This is a plant that can survive the winter in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9.

Watering And Feeding

Indigo plant

These plants can survive in dry conditions with only a little bit of water.

They require only an annual application of fertilizer in the early spring and are very low maintenance.

Soil And The Process of Planting

The Blue False Indigo is resilient and can thrive in a wide variety of poor soil types. It is able to flourish in soil that is shallow, rocky, dry, and clay-based, although it does best with soil that has a moderate moisture content.

The Baptisia plant has a very deep taproot, which enables it to endure extended periods of drought but also makes it difficult to transplant.

Maintenance And Care For The Appearance

When Baptism is established, it will require very little to no maintenance after that. Growing False Indigo in an area with a lot of shade may cause the plant to stretch out and become lanky, which means it will need some kind of support.

Indigo plant

When the flowers have finished flowering, you can either deadhead them or trim them back. This will not only stimulate the production of further blossoms, but it will also assist the plant in preserving a more pleasing and rounded appearance after the flowers have faded.

Because the seedpods produced by Blue Wild Indigo are so lovely, some gardeners choose to let the plant mature to its seed-bearing stage.

Instructions On How To Spread Baptisia Australis

It is in your plant's best interest to let it reseed itself. It is vital to keep in mind that fresh seeds grow more rapidly and easily than dried seeds should you ever find yourself in a position where you need to begin a brand-new Wild Indigo patch.

When you collect your own Baptisia seeds, you should carefully inspect them for any very tiny holes. There is a species of weevil that, when it feeds on plant seeds, will eat holes in them.

If you locate any seeds that have holes in them, you should get rid of them because they won't be able to germinate.

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  • Pouring very hot water over the seeds the night before planting might help to soften the seed coat, which will speed up the process of germination.
  • Let them sit in the liquid all night.
  • After the threat of frost has gone, plant the seeds by poking them directly into the soil at a depth of about half an inch in a sunny spot.

Stem cuttings are another method of propagation for the Baptisia plant.

  • It is recommended that you take your cuttings early in the spring when the growth is still young and not woody.
  • A minimum of one pair of leaf buds ought to be present on each cutting.
  • You should apply the rooting hormone to your cutting before planting it in a growing medium that is loose and airy.
  • If you want to make sure that the humidity is high and stable around the cutting, you can use a plastic tent or a glass jar.
  • Within a couple of months, you should start to see the formation of new roots.

Because the plant's root system might potentially stretch as far as 12 feet into the earth, it is not suggested that the plant be propagated by division.

Blue Indigo

Once False Indigo has been established, you shouldn't make any changes to it at all. This can be a time-consuming process.

Blue Indigo Most Common Diseases And Pests

As long as you supply these natural wildflowers with a location that is bright and sunny and do not overwater them, they will not be affected by any diseases or insects. The plants generate alkaloids, which act as a natural deterrent to most insects and other pests.

 In the event that you do find caterpillars on these plants, you should not remove them because they are likely to be helpful butterfly caterpillars. Sometimes voles will feed on the roots of Baptisia, but because the root system is so vast and so deep, there is usually very little damage done.

Is the Baptisia Dangerous Or Poisonous?

Indigo plant

It is advisable to abstain from consuming the plant because other members of the same species can be poisonous.

In traditional Native American medicine, false indigo is employed in a variety of contexts. In order to employ it as a purgative, an emetic, or to halt vomiting, it was made as tea. Poultices made from mashed roots were applied to areas of inflammation to bring about a reduction in that.

Is Baptisia Invasive?

Baptisia australis is a plant that is native to the United States; hence, it cannot be deemed to be invasive in the United States; yet, it is tough and resilient.

Once it has taken root, the plant multiplies rapidly and is difficult to eradicate because of the extensive root system that extends out in all directions. By removing spent flower heads, also known as deadheading, you can reduce the plant's overall spread.

Examples of Possible Applications for Wild Indigo Plant

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The Blue False Indigo is an excellent option for planting in natural areas.

Because of its extensive and deep root systems, it can be of great assistance when planted in locations that are experiencing problems with erosion.

You can cultivate it in a backyard plot, a wide-open field or meadow, a prairie, a cottage garden, or a border.

You previously harvested the blooms for their indigo plant, but today they are solely valued for their potential as attractive garden plants.

In the late summer, the lovely bluish-green foliage of the plants serves as a backdrop for the blooming plants.