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Meet the Imposter

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April 14, 2010

Meet the Imposter
Blue falso indigo offers a colorful twist on old Charleston roots

WRITTEN BY Evans Craddock
Photograph by Tim McCormack

Charlestonians and true indigo, or Indigofera tinctoria, go back a long way. The two have been together since the mid-1700s, when business pioneer Eliza Lucas Pinckney first introduced the violet plant to the Lowcountry, successfully converting it into a cash crop. But the Perennial Plant Association recently named another indigo incarnate, Baptisia australis, the Perennial Plant of the Year. Commonly known as blue false indigo, this herbaceous plant makes an excellent substitute source for blue dyes, and its vivid blooms give sun-drenched gardens a color boost. Perhaps this imposter is worth getting to know and growing to love.

Since 1990, Perennial Plant Association members have reviewed an extensive list of nominations, casting their votes for one of a handful of selected plants. Winners are determined by their suitablity for a wide range of climates, low maintenance requirements, easy propagation, and multiple-season interest. And this year’s trophy holder—selected over cultivars of hairy alumroot and switchgrass—is no exception. Blue false indigo has a sunny disposition, likes well-drained soil, and tolerates drought after being established. To top it all off, the steadfast perennial isn’t plagued with serious insect problems and is seldom polished off by pesky deer. And with flowers that can attract a number of butterfly species to the garden, this pretty plant would likely merit Mrs. Pinckney's seal of approval, too.

Peak blooming season is right around the corner, so grab your gloves and plant your own award-winning garden!

For more information on the Perennial Plant Association and the Perennial Plant of the Year, click here.

To read about great local gardens, click here.



Wed, 04/14/2010