BEAUTY — Baptisia is a welcome addition to any garden. Choose your location wisely, and it will reward you with many years of beauty.

If you are looking for a striking perennial that requires minimal care, Baptisia fulfills that requirement. Baptisia, commonly known as false indigo, is a rugged native plant featuring tall spires of colorful vibrant blue blooms along with attractive blue-green foliage. The botanical name, Baptisia, originates from the Greek word yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) bapto, which means to dip or to dye. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) was used to produce a blue dye by the Cherokees, a practice later copied by European settlers. They also used the root to treat toothaches and nausea. Native American children used the seed pods as rattles.

The bloom time of a Baptisia is May and June and typically lasts three to six weeks. There are around 20 species of Baptisia, all native to eastern North America. This plant will grow in Zones 3-8 (Adams County is Zone 6b). Baptisia is an herbaceous perennial in the Fabaceae (bean) family. It can grow to a height of three to four feet and spread three to four feet in width. Taller plants may need support, particularly when grown in part shade locations. The flowers are pea-shaped and grow on a raceme or spike. The Baptisia leaves are trifoliate (composed of three leaflets). It is very pollinator-friendly when blooming, and bumblebees especially enjoy it. Mature plants are generally deer resistant. In 2010 Baptisia was designated the Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association.

Carolyn Black is a Penn State Master Gardener from Adams County. Penn State Cooperative Extension of Adams County is located at 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg, phone 717-334-6271.

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