Baptisia, also called false indigo, is a shrub-like plant that does well in our hot and humid summers. Recent breeding efforts have expanded the range of flower colors creating a new look for an old favorite.
I myself have been taken by two top performers according to Mt. Cuba Center’s 15-page report, Baptisia for the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Mt. Cuba Center’s Trial Garden, managed by George Coombs, research horticulturist, evaluates native plants and their related cultivars. From 2012 to 2015, staff evaluated 46 selections of Baptisia including representatives from 11 different species to determine which performs best in the mid-Atlantic region. Over 60 percent of the plants tested receive 4 or 5 stars. Among those, 10 superior cultivars outperformed the rest. Fortunately for me my two Baptisia cultivars are included in the ten.
I have two Lemon Meringue and two Dutch Chocolate plants. I purchase them several years ago as small plants. Now in April, they are tall and just about to bloom. In the summer, they will be loaded with yellow or chocolate brown flowers. Although they look like shrubs, these plants are herbaceous perennials. I cut them back in the winter and in March, new growth emerges from the base. By summer, the plants grow to their mature height of about 3 feet high and wide, each year. The plants have pea-like flowers on tall spikes, similar to lupines, which emerge in April and are in full flower in May. In the fall, the dark brown pods can be left on the plant or used for dried flower arrangements. Baptisia plants are deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant, and drought tolerant once established.