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Wild Blue Indigo

CAROLINA GROWN

baptisia-australis-purple-bob-polomski

Wild blue indigo
Baptisia australis

Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski


Wild blue indigo is the perfect Mother’s Day gift suitable for any Mom who’s new to gardening or was born with a trowel in her hand. This herbaceous perennial is native to the Southeast and has been a part of southern culture since the 18th and 19th centuries. The blue-flowered form (Baptisia australis) was cultivated widely in the south and was used to make dye for the growing textile industry in Georgia and South Carolina.

Wild indigo blooms in May and bears spikes of pealike flowers that rise above the gray-green, three-lobed leaves. Depending on the variety, wild indigo flowers come in deep blue to yellow or creamy-white. The flowers give rise to black seed pods that remain for most of the summer.

It flowers best in a well-drained location in full sun.  Give this plant plenty of elbow room.  It can reach up to 3 or 4 feet in height with an equal spread.

Wild indigo is a great “starter” plant for new gardeners because wild indigo quickly recovers from any mistakes. When my son was six, he harvested all of the new shoots as they poked through its mulch blanket in mid-April. I was mortified when I saw him carry the armful of wild indigo shoots into the kitchen. No problem. The wild indigo responded by producing more asaparagus-like shoots that bloomed magnificently.
 
So why don’t you get Mom a wild indigo and write these words on the card: “Mom, you remind me of wild indigo. You’re tough, durable, and beautiful.”

Well, you may not want to use those exact words. But you can’t go wrong by calling Mom and wild indigo beautiful. Happy Mother’s Day!