Violet blue flowers in your summer garden
There is something magical about violet blue flowers in a summer garden. A mass of long flowering intense violet, purple or blue flowers to see from your summer chaise is a joy. Here is a plant that I use in my garden designs that is easy care and long flowering.
Blue False Indigo – Baptista Australis ‘Purple Smoke’ is a long lived perennial so it will live for decades in your landscape. I use it in my landscape designs because it is colorful, low maintenance, fully drought tolerant, and long blooming. It has attractive foliage and interesting seed pods for fall. Clients who want color and easy care would line up for this plant if they knew about it. It looks great with ornamental grasses and has a more naturalistic look since it is related to lupine, a classic native wildflower.
Planting combinations for Portland Landscape Designs
I’ve used it in a low water parking strip in NE Portland with true dwarf pine, succulents like Sedum spurium ‘Green Mantle’, heather and black mondo grass. In a SW Portland Landscape design I placed it to tower over a low boulder with plant companion ‘Kim’s Knee Hi’ Echinacea to the side.
Over time the plant will increase to a nice thick stand of charcoal green stems (which add to the beauty) and violet blue flower stalks. ‘Purple Smoke’ is grown locally, other varieties and flower colors are only available by mail order. I only use the variety of Baptista Australis called ‘Purple Smoke’. Don’t use the parent plant of ‘Purple Smoke’, it is called just plain old Baptista Australis and gets too tall for most city gardens.
The primary use is ornamental and wildlife friendly. It’s not edible although it is a legume but it is not toxic. It’s a true native American plant. North American Indians had many uses for this plant. The Cherokee made a blue dye for fabric from the flowers. The Osage made some kind of eye wash. Others used the roots as an antiseptic for wounds. It is not considered edible and was once thought to be highly toxic. Modern research has changed this perception. Read more about the plants chemistry.
How to kill Baptista: Water it every day in the summer and fertilize it heavily. Plant it in a low spot where winter rain water will puddle or sit.
Best practice: Water deeply once a week the first summer. The second summer water deeply but infrequently or put a plug in the drip emitter because it won’t need any water by the third summer. I always place it with low water plants so it is easy to provide it with low water to no water. Don’t divide it. It has a tap root so dividing will kill the plant. If the clump gets too wide, take off new plants at the edge of the clump.
After the foliage yellows in the fall cut it down to the ground. Mulch twice a year with garden compost.
Check out my Summer Watering Tips. Learning how to water properly can be a great stress reducer for you and protect your landscape investment.