The Perennial Plant Association has named the beautiful blue Baptisia australis as its Plant of the Year. I am very familiar with this plant, although I have never grown it.
Friends have this hardy and adaptable perennial (zones 3-9) in their gardens, and I have admired it on the famous Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. It is commonly known as false indigo, a reference to the lovely color of the lupine-like races of blossom. An important blue dye was derived from the West Indian plant Indigofera, but it was expensive; early settlers often made do with false indigo.
Baptisia is a perennial, but it grows to a shrubby size, three to four feet tall with as wide a spread. The most important thing to know about Baptisia to grow it successfully is that it has a deep taproot and does not like being moved or transplanted. Therefore, it behooves a gardener to be careful about siting it.
It likes sun, but can tolerate some shade although it may need staking in the shade. It is slow to get established, but within three years you will have a plant the size of a small shrub. It blooms in the spring for three or four weeks, but even after bloom season it is an interesting plant because the seed pods eventually turn black and are useful in dried arrangements. Those seed pods also account for another common name, rattleweed.
Baptisia has so many benefits – a long bloom season, hardiness, interesting seeds, drought tolerance, deer resistant – that you might ask why I have never grown this plant which I do admire and enjoy? It is the problem of where to put it and not decide to move it the following year. This is the same reason I have never managed to plant an asparagus bed. I have a bad habit of moving everything. Except for the roses. I’m going to have to work on that.