Dwarf False Indigo, Fragrant Indigo-bush, Fragrant False Indigo, Dwarf Wild Indigo
When we think of shrubs that grow in the prairie, lead plant (Amorpha canescens) is the first one that comes to my mind. Rightfully so, the soft gray foliage and lavender flower spikes are a must for any summer prairie garden. However, its lesser known cousin, dwarf false indigo (Amorpha nana) is blooming now in the Arboretum. It makes you stop and take notice. Sold in quart container.
Dwarf false indigo can be found growing in the mixed-grass and shortgrass prairies throughout the Great Plains. In Kansas, I have seen it growing wild in Clark county. It is not as widely distributed as lead plant, but I have found it to be quite adaptable. It thrives in dry, open locations with plenty of sunlight. Here in the Arboretum, it blooms in May but I have seen it bloom as late as mid-June.
The deep magenta flowers of dwarf false indigo have a sweet aroma like honey. Each terminal flower cluster is covered in reddish-orange pollen that pollinators love to gather. The flowers stand out against the bright green leaves. This prairie shrub should not be pruned in the spring. It blooms best from previous year’s growth. A variety of pollinators flock to the fragrant blossoms, but the Silver Spotted Skipper butterfly use the soft leaves as a food source. After the blooms, the small green seedpods develop, but turn dark brown later in the fall.
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