Blue False Indigo Flowers in Spring

Blue False Indigo is a very attractive plant that blooms in the middle of Spring. A perennial that sports large clover-like leaves in light green flowers quite beautifully in dark blue and deep purple.

So far, I’ve only seen it in flower beds and not in the wild anywhere. As a matter of fact, the blue false indigo photographed here grew from seeds collected from seed pods of a group that had flowered so nicely the spring before. Blue False Indigo, Baptisia australis, is a member of the Pea Family that is native to North America.

My introduction to this deep purple flowering perennial were a dozen or more plants that were part of the landscaping at the local college library. I made a mental note to myself to return to the scene of the lovely deep purple flowers when the seed pods seemed to be ripe and rattle with seeds.

When I went back there it must have been the end of the summer. The seed pods had turned their faded purple color and the seeds rattled in their pods. Took out my trusty pocket knife, sliced off a few flower stems and slipped them in my backpack. Each one had a half dozen or so seed pods.

A couple years later the seeds were finally planted in a flower bed next to the house. What you see in the image below is a cluster of plants that are about six years old. No flowers appeared the first year on the scant foliage, only a few blooms opened the second year. I’m sure the plant would be considered mature now as the deep purple to blue flowers have been outstanding for the last four years.

Look for the blue false indigo to start blooming in the beginning of May.
Look for the blue false indigo to start blooming in the beginning of May.
Purple flower spikes and clover-like leaves of blue false indigo.
Purple flower spikes and clover-like leaves of blue false indigo.

The pointed, oval leaves appear in threes, and they start out in an accordian shape, all folded up. The clover-like leaves are widest near the tip.

Long flower spikes rise up above the foliage.
Long flower spikes rise up above the foliage.

Violet and indigo flowers command attention in the bright May sunshine. Once the blooming is in full swing the spikes tend to arch over with the weight of the flowers and developing seedpods. Photos above taken 2 May 2010.

Flowering blue false indigo.
Flowering blue false indigo.

The same false indigo plant flowered beautifully last year, as seen in the photo above taken 23 May 2009.

Pea-type flowers produce several seeds inside elongated seed pods.

Pea-type flowers of blue false indigo.
Pea-type flowers of blue false indigo.

Photo above taken 23 May 2007.

In the image below taken 23 May 2009 is a fertilized false indigo flower. Note that a seed pod is growing out of the flower and that the side wing petals have fallen away to leave the broad purple standard petal at the top and, in this case, a white keel at the bottom of the bloom. Stamens are usually tucked inside the keel.

Seed pod growing out of indigo bloom.
Seed pod growing out of indigo bloom.

By the end of May the flowers are past done and all seed pods are well-formed. The pods will turn a deep purple to black as they ripen. The stalks of colorful seed pods can be used as points of interest in flower arrangements.

Peterson’s Medicinal Plants Guide indicates that Blue False Indigo, as well as other species of Baptisia, are potential immune system stimulants. Native Americans used the roots in treating inflammation.

Once the stems get 3 feet tall or so it only takes a brief storm to knock them over. We’ve tried different ways of staking up the greenery of false blue indigo and so far we like this little fence idea the best. Small slats of wood were interlaced to form a sort of fence to hold up the stems.

Primitive wooden fence for holding up false blue indigo stems in summer.
Primitive wooden fence for holding up false blue indigo stems in summer.

6 thoughts on “Blue False Indigo Flowers in Spring

  1. I have six False Blue Indigo plants on a slope. The plants are hardy. However, after they reach a height of approximately 3 to 4 feet, many stems will fall over. Is their any way to prevent this?

  2. Hi Jerry,

    The tipsy stems of false blue indigo drive me crazy too. These plants look so beautiful just before a big storm blows them over! Last year we took some thin slats of wood and interlaced them to make a small “fence” to hold them upright. I added a photo to this post.

    You could try any sort of stake that would fit into your garden theme. I’ve seen sturdy metal stakes for sale in gardening catalogs or these Green Bamboo Plant Stakes from Amazon that are 3 feet tall. Some twine or string could be used to wrap around several stems and tie back to the stake. At least the green stakes would blend in pretty good.

    But, false blue indigo seems to have a mind of its own. See how it’s trying to expand around the side of the fence above? I think it’s in its nature to not be ruled, so good luck with your long stems this year! If your fence or stakes allow for growth of the vegetation, then you’ll be ok. Let us know what works!

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I have two of these in my front yard, and I have asked everyone I know what they are, and have done several searches online to no avail… This last search I used “tall purple flowers clover-like leaves” and your page was the first image that popped up! My “ah-hah!” Moment!! 🙂 I’m glad to finally know what this beautiful perennial is- ours is fully mature and captures everyone’s attention!

  4. I have this plant as well…to keep them from falling over drove 3 stakes (reebar) and tied string around the plant at 2 different heights. Stood up nicely! Love the sound of the pods in the wind.

  5. Hey David!

    Thanks for sharing your method of propping up these beauties. Our plants eventually petered out and that was probably due to my not fertilizing them at all. Or maybe they were just old? I do wonder what age plants survive to…Do you add a little fertilizer to help yours along?

    Thanks for your input!

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