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Baptisia - Frequently Asked Questions

Overview:

Are they perennials?

Are they evergreen?

When do they bloom?

How long do they bloom for?

How fast do they grow?

What pollinators visit them?

Culture:

Can they grow in all day full sun?

Will they grow in shade?

Are they drought tolerant?

Will they grow in sandy soil?

Will they grow in orange clay?

Do they need good soil?

Will they grow in poor soil?

Will they tolerate flooding?

What maintenance do they require?

When do I cut them back?

Can I prune them to keep them shorter?

Can I dig them up and move them?

Propagation:

Can you propagate them from seeds?

When do the seeds mature?

How long will it take seedlings to flower?

Will the seed self-sow?

Will seedlings be the same flower color as the parent plant?

Can they be propagated by cuttings?

Pests:

Do deer eat them?

Do rabbits eat them?

Do voles eat the roots?

Are they bothered by any other pests?

Buying plants

Why do they cost more than other perennial plants?

How do I know I’m getting more than just a seedling or rooted cutting?

Overview

Are they perennials?

Yes. They are tough, long lived plants that can live for many decades.

Are they evergreen?

No. Baptisia die back to their roots after a hard frost in the fall and remain dormant until the following spring.

When do they bloom?

Most bloom in mid-spring. Starting early April in the south and from May into June in the north.

How long do they bloom for?

On average two to three weeks though there are breeding efforts to extend their bloom period.

How fast do they grow?

Baptisia are considered moderate growers when compared to other perennials. In the first year their energy goes into growing roots before producing flowers.

What pollinators visit them?

Baptisias are a valuable source of nectar for bumble bees.

Culture

Can they grow in all day full sun?

Yes. Baptisia thrive in sun. Most species grow naturally in open grasslands and along roadsides.

Will they grow in shade?

No. Baptisia needs at least six hours of direct sun for strong, healthy growth. Plant them in a sunny spot to keep them compact and producing lots of flowers.

Are they drought tolerant?

Yes. Baptisia plants have roots that delve deep into the ground to take up water during extended dry spells.

Will they grow in sandy soil?

Yes. As long as you keep plants watered during their first growing season to help get them established.

Will they grow in orange clay?

Yes. Make sure to dig a wide planting hole and bust up the clay to promote root growth.

Do they need good soil?

No. Baptisia will grow and mature faster in a fertile soil, but it’s not required.

Will they grow in poor soil?

Yes. Baptisia are a legume (plants in the Fabaceae family) and can convert nitrogen through the atmosphere with the help of naturally occurring root-colonizing bacteria that live on root nodules of legumes. This gives Baptisia an ecological advantage and helps them thrive in soil that is less than ideal.

Will they tolerate flooding?

Yes. When grown in full sun, Baptisia plants tolerate short-term flooding with no long-term harm.

What maintenance do they require?

Baptisia are the ultimate low-maintenance plant. Once established they require no fertilizer or additional irrigation to flourish.

When do I cut them back?

The old flowering stems can be cut back to ground level any time after the leaves and stems turn black, usually after the first hard frost. If you don’t get around to cutting them back, the stems will often break off and blow away in a tumbleweed fashion, before the new growth emerges in spring.

Can I prune them to keep them shorter?

Yes. Taller plants that are healthy and vigorous can be trimmed back by half after flowering to decrease their height. Be advised that cutting plants back more the once during the growing season may reduce its vigor.

Can I dig them up and move them?

Yes. We’ve written a detailed article on how you can successfully transplant Baptisia.

Propagation

Can you propagate them from seeds?

Yes. Freshly gathered seeds usually germinates in one to four weeks, with some seedlings coming up the following spring. Older seeds that have been stored are more erratic in sprouting, but they can be encouraged to germinate if the seeds are soaked in boiling water before sowing.

When do the seeds mature?

The seed pods start to swell after they have been successfully pollinated and will turn black once the seeds mature, typically in early summer (mid to late June in central North Carolina).

How long will it take seedlings to flower?

On average, three years. We’ve had a few plants flower from seed in one year, but that is rare.

Will the seed self-sow?

If conditions are favorable seedlings can germinate under or near the parent plant. The seedling are easy to remove or transplant while they are still small.

Will seedlings be the same flower color as the parent plant?

If another Baptisia plant was flowering close by, the chance of hybridization is very high. The seedlings could either be the same flower color as one of the parent plants, a blend of each parent, or it could even have bicolored flowers.

Can they be propagated by cuttings?

Yes. Cuttings are best taken just after flowering so they can form a substantial root system before the end of the growing season. It can take four to six weeks for them to form roots and usually two or three years before they are large enough to flower. 

Pests

Do deer eat them?

Baptisia are resistant to deer browsing. However, if the population is high or food is scarce, deer may experiment and eat less desirable plants.

Do rabbits eat them?

Rabbits have been known to eat young Baptisia plants. Protect plants while they get established by creating a cage 18 inches high out of chicken wire.

Do voles eat the roots?

If you have a problem with voles in your garden we recommend protecting your Baptisia plants by creating a cage to protect their root crowns. Use hardware cloth that has 1/4-inch or smaller mesh and make sure it’s at least six inches deep to prevent voles from tunneling under it.

Are they bothered by any other pests?

Sometimes the foliage can be eaten by the Gentisa Broom moth caterpillar.

Buying plants

Why do they cost more than other perennial plants?

Baptisia are more challenging to propagate and also take longer than most perennials to produce a salable plant.

How do I know I’m getting more than just a seedling or rooted cutting?

Unfortunately, most nurseries only list the container size and not the age or appearance or the plant. If you want an accurate representation of what you can expect when buying plants online, check out our Baptisia plants.

Below is a list of Baptisia we currently sell with links that have photos of what they will look like during each season:

White False Indigo

White False Indigo
Baptisia alba

 

 Purple Smoke False

Purple Smoke False Indigo
Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’

 

Screamin' Yellow False Indigo

Screamin’ Yellow False Indigo
Baptisia sphaerocarpa ‘Screamin’ Yellow’

 

Wild Indigo

Wild Indigo
Baptisia tinctoria