Each year, the Perennial Plant of the Year Committee selects a perennial plant which meets the following criteria: suitable for a wide range of climates, low maintenance, pest and disease resistant, readily available in the year of release, multiple season of ornamental interest and easily propagated by asexual or seed propagation.
Selected for its outstanding ability to grow in most any hardiness zone, this year’s winner is the perennial, Baptisia australis or blue false indigo plant.
Blue false indigo is a very attractive perennial plant that produces rich violet-blue lupine-like flowers emerging up to 25 centimetres in height.
Producing flowers not unlike the formation of the well-loved sweet pea, tall flower stocks emerge from foliage in a compact mound of bluish-green clover-like petals.
Hardy to Zone 3 (which means this perennial should be considered for an area of the garden that receives some shelter or protection) flowers will generally last up to four weeks in the garden before transitioning to seed pods.
Interesting, this native species was sought by early Americans to use the incredible violet-blue flowers as a dye.
This highly adaptive native species will thrive most anywhere in the garden once established, however, this plant prefers a full-sun location. If planted in the shade, it will require staking to keep the flower stocks erect.
Once established, blue false indigo will survive in drought tolerant conditions. Uniquely, pests and diseases are almost harmless to this plant.
Baptisia australis is an early bloomer which makes it attractive for Northern gardeners who await the first blossoms of summer with anxious anticipation.
Following the blooming period, this perennial is particularly enjoyed for its trifoliate, soft blue-green foliage that reaches heights and widths of up to 100 centimetres at maturity. For this reason, the blue false indigo makes an outstanding backdrop for other perennial and groundcover plants during the remainder of the season.
Also providing interest in winter, the spent flowers of blue false indigo become puffy seed pods which first appear in shades of green before darkening in colour. These interesting pods look great left in the garden throughout the winter months.
Many florists enjoy using the striking seed pods in dried flower arrangements such as wreaths and centrepieces.
As a native species, the Baptisia australis perennial looks great in informal settings, such as native wildflower or cottage-style gardens. It can easily be combined with other bulbs or perennial plants but looks best when planted in small focal groups of its own single variety.
This summer, consider trying this year’s Perennial Plant of the Year, Baptisia australis or blue false indigo, in your garden. This showy native species has been a popular choice of gardeners for many years. The intense colour, combined with its unique show of outstanding flowers, makes it an excellent choice for native or wildflower northern gardens.