Friday, April 17, 2015

Baptisia australis Success Story!

After attending the Shirley Meniece workshop in the fall of 2013, I came home with Baptisia australis seeds.  I was really excited to try this plant as I have always loved it.  Probably 10-15 years ago I had a couple on my hillside, but I think they fell prey to both too much shade and an overanxious weed eater.  The plant had moved to the back of my mind.    I have a friend who lives nearby and the last several summers I have admired her very large (almost shrub size) plants and so wanted to try again.  The seed heads are lovely in the fall; pea shaped and they turn almost black when mature.  The seeds are a nice size and easy to collect as there are several in each pod.

This is a borrowed photo - but I hope to
have my own by the end of the summer!

Baptisia australis is a native plant.  Also called wild blue indigo or false indigo it was used as a dye in colonial days by the settlers and before that by native American Indians who taught the settlers how to make the dye.  Baptisia has a deep taproot and it is risky to divide.  It is a long lived, slow to mature herbaceous perennial and is also deer resistant (another plus!). 

Just a little bit more description - the plant will grow about 2-4 ft. high from a woody base.  It is a bushy, robust perennial. Flowers are blue-purple and pea-like.  They grow in dense, upright, terminal spikes, 4-16 in. long. Leaves are divided into three leaflets. One of the great advantages is that it tolerates lots of sun in poor to average well drained soil.

In addition, Baptisia is a host plant for numerous butterflies and moths including skippers, the Eastern tailed blue butterfly, Northern Sulphurs, Wild Indigo Duskwings, Clouded Sulphurs, Eastern, Hoary Edg and the Gray Hairstreak.  It is a nectar source for long and short tongued bees and other butterflies.  And a great fall benefit is that the chickadees love them.

Back to the fall of 2013.  We divied up our seeds and jumped into planting.  This was one plant we really need to read about.  DIFFICULT! So, no results. There were lots of email conversations over the summer with Barbara in California and she said she would send more seeds at the right time.  Great encouragement and a new batch of seeds arrived in the fall from her garden.

Our group decided this fall to try them in our "Winter Sowing Workshop" posted in December, 2014  We would use the milk/water jug method.  In early December my water jugs were seeded liberally and set in the yard.

Fast forward to April.  I moved my water jugs a month ago from their very shaded, cold site adjacent to the house over a little bit to a warmer wall.  Still north facing as I didn't want them to get a lot of heat too quickly, but next to the stone foundation of my house where they would get some warm morning sun.  A couple of weeks ago I checked them and lots of tiny green first sets of leaves showing.  Success!

April 17, 2015   My little seedlings are a couple of inches tall and a second set of leaves starting to show.  Time to open the jug, plant and hope for the best.  So encouraged as at least there is successful germination and a lot of it.  Hoping some of the rest of our group are having success also!  Please journal here if you are having success with your photos and comments.


Opened the milk jug by cutting
along the tape line that I sealed
it up with last fall.  Look at all
the seedlings.

Because of the long taproot
I put 3-4 plants in a large container
with plenty of room to grow.  Look
closely and you can see that 3 of the
seedlings have their first real set of
leaves starting.

June 9, 2015  All of my seedlings are now potted and growing.  They are still in their sheltered place, away from hard storms like we had yesterday.  They get bright light and some morning sun, but are shaded a good portion of the day.  Not yet ready to move out into any different setting.  More sets of leaves, but still very tender! Getting ready to share with others next week.

Baptisia plants on June 9 in
holding area.  Baptisia pots
are circled in pink.  Very spindly
but growing well. 

1 comment:

  1. Baptisia plants are doing well! Updated photo today.