Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Baptisia (page 2 of 2)

by Susan Littlefield

Care

Baptisia forms a deep taproot, making it difficult to transplant, so choose the planting site carefully. The plant prefers full sun; it will grow in part shade, but may need staking to keep it from flopping. A member of the legume family, baptisia fixes nitrogen; once established it needs little or no supplemental fertilizer, other than an annual application of compost. (The term "fixes nitrogen" means that the plant converts atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use as a nutrient. This is done via a symbiotic relationship the plant has with certain bacteria that colonize and form nodules along its roots.)

Unlike many other perennials, baptisia clumps don't need dividing. Although it's possible to divide the deep, gnarly root mass, it's risky and you may end up damaging the plant so much that it can't recover. If you want more plants you can propagate it by seed (though it is slow-growing and will take years to reach an appreciable size.) It has few insect and disease problems and is usually ignored by deer.

You can shear back established clumps by one-third after bloom is finished to control size somewhat and make flopping foliage less likely.
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