Gardeners are always looking for plants that require little and yet give a lot; ones that are disease resistant, have pretty flowers and ones that deer find distasteful. Well, I have just rediscovered Baptisia which falls into this category. This shrub-like perennial is long-lived, striking and easy to grow. It makes an impact when peppered throughout a perennial border or just used as a single specimen.

Baptisia is commonly known as blue wild indigo or blue false indigo. Pea-like flowers appear on long stems that are architectural gems in the garden. These spiky forms add a different dimension, as well as an interesting texture to the perennial border. The blue-green foliage is also a plus since it stays pretty in the flower border all summer long.

These native plants are found in the woodlands and grassland of eastern and southern North America. The species most commonly found in cultivation is baptisia australis. However, there are some newer hybrids that are being developed that are outstanding. Breeders are working to have plants with a more compact habit, stronger stems, colors that are more intense and various blooming times. Some of the bright yellows and clear blue ones are my personal favorites.

I also love Baptisia for other reasons. They make great cut flowers, they are a dramatic statement in the garden, and because of the time they bloom in our area is great for my garden. We have azaleas and other flowering trees and shrubs that bloom at the same time as the azaleas are in flower. Baptisia begin to bloom as the azaleas are waning and before summer annuals and perennials take center stage. This helps insure that there will be continuous color in the garden, making it a great transitional plant.

Baptisia species come in three flower colors: blue, white and yellow. Blue species are most well known in gardens but they are actually the rarest color in the genus. Today, some of the hybridizers that are working with Baptisia are trying to get more intense, clear colors as well as adding red or pink flowers to the palette.

Baptisia take some time to get established, so be patient. The roots need to work their way deep into the ground and this might take a season. However, this deep root system will take the plant through drought and helps require less water. Baptisia like sun and will grow in sandy or rocky soil and will also tolerate clay.

If there is a drawback to this plant, it would be their ability to grow 3 to 4 feet tall with a similar spread. Breeders are working to make more compact plants, which will make it usable in smaller spaces.

I have been asked about pruning and yes, you can prune your plants. You can tidy up your garden, removing the seed heads after they flower. If you want to clean up the plant in fall, do so when the leaves start to drop. This indicates that the plant has gone into dormancy. In colder climates it is good to mulch your bed to protect the root zone.

However, if you want to have more plants, let them go to seed and fall naturally to the ground. You can also remove the seed and plant them where you want to have more Baptisia. Remember, if you want to grow them from seed, they have to put down a deep taproot first and this will take a little longer than other plants to flower.

I used to grow Baptisia years ago, but dug them up one year to plant something else in that location and just forgot to replant them. I have missed out having this great plant in the garden and I am thrilled to have rediscovered it when visiting Michael Dirr’s garden in Athens, Georgia. His garden is filled with white, yellow and blue flowers, all making a vivid display, all worth a place in the garden.

Betty Montgomery is a master gardener and author of “Hydrangeas: How To Grow, Cultivate & Enjoy,” and “A Four-Season Southern Garden.” She can be reached at bmontgomery40@gmail.com.