Baptisia tinctoria
Common Name: wild indigo
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Yellow to cream colored
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil

Culture

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun. Tolerates drought and poor soils. Over time, plants form slowly expanding clumps with deep and extensive root systems, and should not be disturbed once established. Difficult to grow from seed and slow to establish. Plants take on more of a shrubby appearance and tend to open up after bloom. Light trimming or shearing foliage after bloom helps maintain rounded plant appearance and obviates any need for support, but eliminates the developing seed pods.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Wild indigo (also called yellow wild indigo) is an upright, smooth, shrubby perennial which typically grows 2-3' tall and occurs in open woods and fields from Maine to Florida and west to Minnesota. It features small, bright yellow to cream, pea-like flowers (to 1/2" long) in numerous, sparsely-flowered clusters (terminal racemes to 4-5") on stems extending above a foliage mound of stalkless, clover-like, trifoliate, gray-green leaves (leaflets to 1" long). Blooms in late spring to early summer. Flowers give way to small inflated seed pods which turn black when ripe and have some ornamental interest. Seeds rattle around in the pods when ripe, thus giving rise to the sometimes common name of rattleweed for this species. Baptisia comes from the Greek word for dye and tinctoria comes from the Latin word for dye, all of which somewhat redundantly gets the point across that this is a dye plant which was used by early Americans as a substitute, albeit an inferior one, for true indigo (genus Indigofera) in making dyes.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Cottage gardens, prairies, meadows and native plant gardens. Effective in naturalized settings. Best as a specimen or in small groups. May be used in borders, but flowers are smaller and less showy than many of the other baptisias.