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Baptisia australis, 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year

Karen Jeannette, Research Fellow and Yard and Garden News Editor

Baptisia australis 7 years after planting
Karen Jeannette

The 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year goes to Baptisia australis, also referred to as false indigo. While many times the perennial plant of the year is in fact versatile and well-suited for Minnesota, as with any nationally nominated plant, there are years when the plant of the year does not always turn out as we hope in Minnesota, or is not hardy to any or all of our Minnesota cold hardiness zones ( 2, 3, 4).

 Baptisia australis is considered a long-lived perennial (barring any catastrophe, abuse, or major disruption to the plant or root zone) and is cold hardy in zones 3-8.

The Perennial Plant of the Year is named annually by the Perennial Plant Association, whose board of directors include plantsmen and women who represent nurseries, universities, botanical gardens, and other horticulture entities. The Perennial Plant Association hosts a Plant of the Year Committee, who votes yearly on one of several previously nominated perennial plants, and then nominates future selections based on the following characteristics:

  • Suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions

  • Low maintenance

  • Pest and disease resistant

  • Readily available in the year of release

  • Multiple season of ornamental interest

  • Easily propagated by asexual or seed propagation

Uses and information about Baptisia australis can be found in the Perennial Plant Association's flyer, as seen here:


As mentioned in the above flyer, Baptisia australis can be quite useful in prairie gardens, landscapes, or restoration, along with native and related species, Baptisia bracteata (cream to yellow flowers) and Baptisia alba (white flowers).  The University of Minnesota bulletin Plants in Prairie Communities: Characteristics of Prairie Plants lists all three species as being used in mesic plant prairie communities

Purchasing Baptisia australis - don't let its sparse start fool you!

Because Baptisia australis takes three years to become an established, flowering plant, note that when purchasing first year plants sold in one or two gallon pots, they will not be blooming. In fact, the two or three-stemmed potted plant may look a bit sparse next to other quicker to establish perennial plants for sale. However, just be aware that a first year false indigo plant will likely require a little imagination on your part at the time of purchase.  As long as the plant appears in good health (i.e. not wilting, foliage intact, roots whitish with no rot), these first year plants actually hold much potential. Once planted in the appropriate garden site and soil, false indigo will begin the establishment process needed to become the long-lived, drought resistant, cold hardy, and robust perennial performer it has been touted as being.
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