More Wild Indigo, Spiderwort, and Foxglove Beard Tongue

Second Week in June

More Wild Indigo, Spiderwort, and Foxglove Beard Tongue

Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis) begins to bloom shortly after Cream Wild Indigo. (This year it came and went in just a few days in the upper 90 degree weather we had last week.) It is native to the south and west of the Chicago region, but is non-invasive and so striking a plant that I include it in my prairie gardens.



The operative word is “prairie” garden.  It grows 5’ tall and wide and does not fit well into a traditional perennial bed.  Treat it as a shrub-install it on both sides of your front door as I have here.



The stunning sapphire blue pea blossoms seem almost iridescent.  Passers-by sometimes mistake it for delphinium, but its not the least bit temperamental as is delphinium.  Deep-rooted Wild Blue Indigo is drought resistant and thrives in Midwest hot summers.  Its smooth satin stems and waxy, blue-green foliage are attractive in the garden all season.  Like many native plants, Blue Wild Indigo reproduces itself readily from self-seeding.   Three descendants grow in the long west garden next to the sidewalk, blooming at the same time as Ohio Spiderwort with the same sapphire blue  blossoms and then is joined by gleaming white Foxglove Beard Tongue (Penstemon digitalis) and  the elegant White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha).




White Wild Indigo and Ohio Spiderwort at my house



White Wild Indigo at the Sears Prairie in Hoffman Estates

White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha) is the one of the most elegant of plants. Waxy, white pea blossoms appear on smooth purple-green stems that rise above an open shrublike plant from early June into early July.  The blue-green triparted leaves are attractive all summer; eye-catching black seed pods form in summer and last through the winter.  It seems to grow easily from seed in prairie restorations–note all the White Wild Indigo in the background– but I have had difficulty growing it from #1 plants in my mesic soil gardens.  I only have 2 plants out of dozens that I have planted and one of them is diminishing by the year.  Tell me what your experience has been with White Wild Indigo.



Foxglove Beard Tongue on my Parkway,

Foxglove Beard Tongue  (Penstemon digitalis) is a short-lived perennial that readily seeds itself about.  You will always have them, but not necessarily where you first planted them.  Its glistening white trumpets are arranged in tiers around smooth, straight 2-3’ stems. Thick, dark green, waxy, opposite leaves minimize moisture loss and add to its handsomeness; the basal leaves remain green throughout the year.  It grows in prairies and savannas; therefore, it can be situated in full sun or partial shade in home gardens or other landscaping situations.  Some have green stems and some, as above, have showier red stems. ( ‘Husker Red’ is a cultivar of Penstemon digitalis that  has both red stems and leaves.  It was the Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year  in 1996.)



Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is common in sandy Black Oak savannas, disturbed prairies, and railroad ballast, as shown here, near where I live.









Clusters of striking, iridescent blue, tri-petaled flowers with golden-yellow anthers bloom at the top of reed-like stems of Ohio Spiderwort in June.  The blossoms open a few at a time, every morning, closing by noon on sunny days.  (On cloudy days they stay open all day.)  The vertically folded, arching leaves grow alternately along the stems; 2 or 3 smaller leaves emerge just below the blossom cluster that give it its spider-like appearance

Adaptable, Ohio Spiderwort grows in dry, mesic, or wet circumstances in full sun or part shade.  After blooming, the foliage deteriorates quickly.  If it’s not hidden by other plants, it can be cut down and it will grow back fresh and green again.


I did not plant all this Spiderwort–it does seed itself about.    If you don’t want so much of it, it’s easy to dig and give away.

I always think I have too much Spiderwort—until it blooms!


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