This Month in the Garden (June 2010)...
Native to North America, baptisia is a tough plant that will tolerate drought and poor soils. Although best known in the garden for their blue flowers, baptisias may also sport yellow, cream or white spikes of pea-like blossoms.
Baptisias are unpalatable to foraging wildlife and the plants die back to the ground in winter. The new shoots that emerge in the spring resemble asparagus stalks. Baptisia roots run deep into the soil and the plant should not be disturbed after it is established.
Baptisia alba v. macrophylla is native to Wisconsin prairies. It is the tallest of the native baptisias, five to seven feet tall with white flowers and black seed pods. Baptisia minor, an 18-inch tall native to New England, is the smallest.
Many hybrid baptisias are making their way into the market thanks to breeding programs like Chicagoland Grows, a cooperative effort of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum. Plant hunters and baptisia enthusiasts are also cultivating naturally occurring hybrids that may introduce pink-flowered baptisias into gardens in the next several years.
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