Sunday, August 1, 2010
False Indigo - Amorpha fruticosa
False indigo, or leadplant, (Amorpha fruticosa) is a deciduous woody shrub native to moist soil habitats, such as stream banks, throughout Florida and much of North America. This relatively common native plant eventually can reach heights of 12 feet on stems with diameters of 1 inch or more. Because of their large size, they need to be placed in a landscape where they have ample space.
False indigo loses its leaves in early winter and remains leafless until spring. At this time, it produces both its compound leaflets and its wonderful flower spikes. The leaflets are composed of many elliptical opposite leaves which give the plant a feathery appearance. This foliage keeps the plant looking attractive throughout the summer, even when it is not in bloom, and serves as a larval food source for two butterflies - the southern dogface sulphur and the silver-spotted skipper. Though both of these butterflies are not common to urban landscapes and are, therefore, not likely candidates for butterfly gardens in highly developed areas, using this wonderful shrub is worth the effort.
What makes false indigo special is its floral display in mid-spring. At this time, its crown is literally covered with 2-3 inch flower spikes. Each bloom is a deep purple in color and the bright orange anthers contrast sharply with the purple floral tubes. False indigo is an excellent butterfly nectar plant, and also attracts bees and other pollinators.
Although this plant occurs naturally mostly in moist soils in Florida, it is extremely adaptable and can be successfully grown in most home landscape settings. We have kept ours in nearly full sun and very poor droughty soil for a great many years and it has thrived. It is best used, however, in moist soil with full sun or in partial sun in droughtier locations. Plant it at the back of a planting bed. As it matures, smaller wildflowers can be planted beneath it as it does not throw too much shade.
False indigo is easy to propagate from seed and is available from a number of commercial nurseries statewide. It grows rapidly.