By Phran Novelli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – One of the best things I’ve ever planted is Baptisia australis, an easy care native perennial that shoots straight up in the spring, then puts out lovely little leaves followed by spikes of deep purple flowers, giving the plant its common name of ‘False Indigo.’

You can find it with white or yellow flowers too, and in addition to the dark indigo, I have a cultivar called ‘Purple Smoke,’ with grey-green foliage and lighter lavender flowers, which catch the sunlight beautifully, see the picture at left.

Baptisia thrives in the sun, needs no fertilizer or fussing, and after blooming, it stands like a lovely shrub or hedge through summer and fall. It gets about four feet high, but if it’s too tall or wide for your spot, you can sheer it in seconds and you only need to do it once a year. Don’t cut off the flower pods though, let them stay to decorate the plant and shake musically in the wind through autumn, then tuck them into wreaths come winter.

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