A gorgeous perennial known as Baptisia australis is perfect for gardeners in the Lower Hudson Valley — it’s a tough native plant and reliable rebloomer that can stand up to all of the vagaries of our weather. It’s deer and disease resistant, low maintenance and completely drought tolerant once established. Butterflies like it, too.
(photo by Steven Still/Perennial Plant Association)
This year, the well-respected Perennial Plant Association has named Baptisia australis the Perennial Plant of the Year. Common names for this winning shrublike perennial include blue false indigo, wild indigo, rattleweed and baptisia.
It has stunningly beautiful violet-blue blooms in mid-spring — late May and early June for us.
The flowers last three to four weeks, giving way to seed pods that turn charcoal-black by the end of the summer. You can hear the seeds rattling in the pods when breezes blow in fall. In winter, you can bring them inside for dried-flower arrangements.
The foliage is interesting, too — trifoliate cloverlike leaves with a blue-green tinge.
You want to grow baptisia in absolutely full sun. If you don’t, the plants get floppy and may need to be staked. You also want to think carefully about where you site it because the plants have a long tap root and hate to be moved. Mature plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, so plan accordingly. And be patient — it takes about three years for the plants to really take off.
Baptisia mixes nicely with all sorts of neighbors, including hostas, heucheras, amsonia and spring-blooming bulbs. In my garden, I plant them with peonies and irises — I love the play of purple-blue with maroons and pinks.
For more information, visit www.perennialplant.org. And be sure to look at the list of past Perennial Plants of the Year. I’m sure many are your garden favorites.