Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'
Common Name: false indigo 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Smoky violet
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil


Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun in acidic, somewhat poor soils. Good drought tolerance. Plant develops a large taproot and is best left undisturbed once established. Plants tend to open up after flowering and may need support as the summer progresses. Foliage may be cut back after flowering to form compact bushy plants which remain attractive for the remainder of the growing season without staking, however the showy seed pods will be lost if this is done. Plants usually take 3 years to establish, but are of easy culture thereafter.

This hybrid cultivar will not come true from seed and is best propagated from cuttings.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Baptisia is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials growing mainly in dry woodland and grassland areas of eastern and southern U.S. Often found growing in dry, gravelly soils they are deep-rooted plants with good drought and erosion tolerance. The showy terminal flower spikes are followed by inflated seed pods. The pea-like flowers are attractive to butterflies and other insect pollinators.

The genus name Baptisia comes from the Greek word bapto meaning "to dye".

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

'Purple Smoke' (B. australis x B. alba) is a shrubby perennial which typically grows 3-4.5' tall. It was discovered as a chance seedling in a trial bed at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in the early 1990s. Features smoky violet, lupine-like flowers (from B. australis) and gray-green, clover-like foliage on charcoal stems (from B. alba). Flowers appear in mid-spring, opening up from bottom to top in erect but slightly arching terminal racemes (to 1' long) which extend well above the foliage. Flowers give way to cylindrical, bean-like seed pods (to 2.5" long) which have good ornamental interest and are sometimes used in dried flower arrangements. Attractive foliage remains effective throughout the growing season.


No serious insect or disease problems. Taller plants may need support, particularly when grown in part shade locations. Sensitive to juglone. Tends to perform poorly when planted close to black walnut trees.


Borders, cottage gardens, prairies and meadows. Effective in naturalized settings. Best as a specimen or in small groups.