Baptisia australis

Plant for the deep-rooted nitrogen-fixation, for rattles and spires of blue flowers, for chop-and-drop biomass and natural native dyes!

Hardy from Zones 3 to 10. 3-4 feet tall and wide.

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We’re attracted to nitrogen-fixing plants so we can avoid fossil-fueled fertilizers. Baptisia is quickly becoming one of our favorites! We’re planting it in forest gardens and riparian edges as a nitrogen-fixing mulch plant. This native shrub grows as a bushy ground cover from Texas and Oklahoma to the East Coast, along tree lines, riparian borders, and open prairies, where they’re a host for butterfly larvae such as eastern tailed blue, wild indigo duskywing, frosted elfin, and clouded sulphur. Baptisia forms widening clumps of fleshy pea-like leaves, spreading by rhizomes from its deep black roots. It prefers sandy loams and is unbothered by a little drought every now and then. Baptisia is often planted as an ornamental, mostly for the bright blue flowers on tall spikes. Arching stems turn silver and bear blue-black seed pods.

The scientific name comes from two Greek words, bapto for dip or immerse and australis for Southern, and it goes by a number of common names like Blue False Indigo, Plains Wild Indigo, Rattlepod, and Rattlebush, for the loose seeds that clatter in the dried pods, popular in flower arrangements and as toys! Cherokee communities have used this plant for its blue dye, from the sap and the roots, and also brewing hot tea as a purgative and cold tea to prevent vomiting.

We propagate our Baptisia from seed in nursery beds or planting trays.