Learn About Baptisia

Posted in: Other Perennials
Learn About Baptisia

How to Sow

Planting Potted Plants:

  • Choose a location in full sun or partial shade with well-drained, organic soil. 
  • Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 6-12 inches, removing any debris, and lightly raking as level as possible. 
  • The addition of organic matter (leaf mold, compost, well-rotted manure) benefits all gardens and is essential in recently constructed neighborhoods. 
  • Plant on a cloudy day or in late afternoon to reduce transplant shock. 
  • Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball. Space baptisia about 3-5 feet apart. 
  • Unpot the plant and gently loosen the root ball with your hands to encourage good root growth. Be careful not to damage the tap root. 
  • Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand. 
  • Use the plant tag as a location marker. 
  • Thoroughly water and apply a light mulch layer on top of the soil (1-2 inches) to conserve water and reduce weeds. 

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination. 
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot. 
  • Careful watering is essential in getting perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry. One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge. 
  • Until plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important. 
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots. In general baptisia needs little fertilizer because as a member of the pea family, it can fix nitrogen from the air.
  • Deadhead to encourage more blooms. This is a great flower for cutting.
  • Some people like to leave the seed pods on the plants, but if they become heavy and pull the stems down it is best to remove them.
  • Remove and discard foliage after a hard frost in fall.
  • In colder regions, apply another layer of mulch (1-2 inches) after the ground freezes in fall. Evergreen boughs (from Christmas trees) provide additional protection. Remove this mulch in the spring.
  • We do not recommend dividing as plant taproots are easily damaged. Plants may remain for many years in the garden in the same location.

Growing Tips

  • Baptisia needs little care and can be quite drought-tolerant once established.
  • Baptisia makes great cut flowers, but be sure to hydrate them right away after cutting. Seed pods can also make interesting additions to cut flower arrangements.
  • Great native pollinator plant attracts bees and butterflies to the garden.

Common Disease Problems

Leaf Spot Diseases: These cause spotting on the foliage and plants to lose vigor. They are caused by a number of diseases. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected foliage and destroy it. Provide good air circulation. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.

Rust: A number of fungus diseases that cause rust colored spots on foliage and stalks. Burpee Recommends: Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Caterpillars: A number of caterpillars feed on this native plant as part of their life cycle. This can damage leaves, but some damage should be tolerated. Burpee Recommends: Burpee Recommends: Consider that caterpillars are the larval stage of a number of beneficial insects so allow some damage to occur. Otherwise handpick.

Spider mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.

Thrips: Thrips are tiny needle-thin insects that are black or straw colored. They suck the juices of plants and attack flower petals, leaves and stems. The plant will have a stippling, discolored flecking or silvering of the leaf surface. Thrips can spread many diseases from plant to plant. Burpee Recommends: Many thrips may be repelled by sheets of aluminum foil spread between rows of plants. Remove weeds from the bed and remove debris from the bed after frost. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls.

Whitefly: These are small white flying insects that often rise up in a cloud when plants are disturbed or brushed against. Burpee Recommends: They are difficult to control without chemicals. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations.


Can I grow baptisia in containers? In general many varieties are too large a plant to grow successfully in a container. It also does not tend to have a long bloom period.

Can baptisia be used for cut flowers? Yes, they make attractive cut flowers and the pods are ornamental as well. Be sure to hydrate as soon as they are cut.

Does baptisia attract pollinators? Yes, this is a great native plant for the pollinator garden.

October 29, 2021
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