Panicum Virgatum Switchgrass OR.

Panicum Virgatum Switchgrass OR.

Panicum Virgatum Switchgrass

Here in north-central North Carolina (USDA Hardiness Zone 7), it is best to plant wild indigos in October or November when the roots will still have an opportunity to get a grip in the native soil before winter sets in. In fact, fall is the best time to plant any perennial in this part of the country. In colder climates, where frost may heave plants out of the ground, planting in the spring once the ground can be worked is best. However, if you are willing to check on them regularly and make sure that they get at least an inch of water a week during their first season, wild indigos can be planted at any time during the growing season. A long time ago, there was a little boy who wanted to spend eternity with his dad. It wasn’t going to be easy, though. He knew his dad hated baptists—so the boy swam deep into the water, beyond the reach of the church’s beach baptistry. He kept swimming until he reached an isolated cove, where he knew his dad would have to come looking for him if he was going to catch the little boy.


There are around 20 species of Baptisia, all native to eastern or midwestern North America. Several are native to South Carolina, and all baptisias can be grown throughout the state. Baptisias have a very wide, natural range to which they seem well adapted. As a group, these perennials are deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant, and drought tolerant once established. They are excellent, attractive, low-maintenance plants.If seed is saved for later sowing, stratify (chill) the seeds in the refrigerator for 6 to 12 weeks. After chilling time is met, scarify (wear down part of the hard seed coat) with sandpaper, or nick seed coat with a sharp knife. Soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. Sow seeds ¼” deep in a very well-drained seed mix of 3 parts perlite to 1 part peat. Provide bottom heat at 75 °F until plants emerge. New seedlings can be planted outside after last frost date in spring, but will require extra care during the first year of establishment. Seedling Baptisia plants grow slowly and will not bloom for at least 2 to 3 years.

Baptisias have acquired many names over the years as botanists have named and renamed them, attempting to properly identify relationships. As a result, some baptisias actually have more botanical names (accepted and synonyms) than they do common names. It is possible to order baptisias under four or five different names, and the plants received will all be identical. The accepted botanical name (according to the USDA PLANTS database at the time of writing) along with commonly used synonyms, are listed below. Baptisia australis: The species is sometimes called by the synonym B. caerulea. Blue false indigo is the common name. B. minor is a synonym for a short western variety. It is the best known Baptisia and was named the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. It is not native to South Carolina, but common in much of the Southeast and Midwestern states. It grows well throughout the state. This common species grows 3 to 4 feet in height and the same or slightly more in width. It has a broad, dense, shrub-like appearance. The flowers are bright indigo blue, held in upright racemes above the foliage. Bloom time is typically mid to late April in the Piedmont and lasts for up to 6 weeks. Foliage is attractive, blue-green with a waxy texture. This species prefers well-drained but moderately moist soil and full sun or light shade. It will tolerate drought once established.Longtime favorites of wildflower gardeners, wild indigos have recently gotten a lot more attention from perennial gardeners. The flowers are one reason, but once the blooms are past, wild indigos undergo a transformation. When the spikes that held the flowers fill out with sturdy, attractive foliage, most wild indigos look like appealing, rounded shrubs. For a neater, more manicured look, you can clean up the plant—after it flowers— with a little pruning to get a flush of new growth. Some folks take this too far—I’ve seen them clipped into little, green meatballs. (Source: www.finegardening.com)




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