Baptisia, also called false indigo, is a shrub 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 recent Baptisia additions to my garden are included in the ten.
I have two Lemon Meringue and two Dutch Chocolate plants. I purchase them three years ago as small plants. Last month they were heavy with yellow or chocolate brown flowers. Although they look like shrubs, these plants are herbaceous perennials. They die back in the fall and come back in the early spring. By summer, the plants grow to their mature height of about 3 feet high and wide, each year. Mine had pea-like flowers on tall spikes, similar to lupines, in April. In the fall, the flowers produce dark brown pods that be used for dried flower arrangements. Baptisia plants are deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant, and drought tolerant once established. These natives make great additions to the garden. I am thinking of adding more!