Wednesday, January 13, 2010
2010 Perennial Plant of the Year
The 2010 perennial plant of the year is a native species with indigo blue flowers in May to June that is found growing in prairies, meadows, along stream banks and in open woods. Baptisia australis which many know as blue wild indigo is related to lupines as they both have spikes of pea-like flowers. The long green seed pods ripen to black making them desirable for floral arrangements.
Baptisia is a long lived perennial that once established has a long tap root that enables it to be drought tolerant. Slow to start, it will form a clump 90-120 cm tall and shouldn’t need dividing for 10 years or more. Preferring a lean soil in full sun, light shade is tolerated and good drainage is required.
After flowering, the plant can be cut back by one third and shaped into a rounded shrub form that will hold up well for the rest of the season. If pruning is not desired and the plant needs staking, a peony ring works well.
All the books say that baptisia doesn’t transplant well because of the deep roots but even an experienced gardener can find themselves with the dilemma of having to move an established one. My plant was being overgrown by an upright juniper and I decided to finally move it last year. The baptisia was cut back and I dug down deep to get as many roots as possible, transplanted it and hoped for the best. It drooped a lot for the first few weeks and then seemed to realize the new location wasn’t so bad after all. By fall I felt the transplant had taken and look forward to the pretty flowers this year that attract many butterflies.