Description & Overview

Cream Wild Indigo is a prairie species native to the central U.S. from Texas to Wisconsin. Showy racemes up to nine inches long are loaded with creamy, white flowers that appear in spring. This false indigo can be told apart from others by its flower stalks as they tend to grow horizontally along the ground, perhaps due to the weight of the flowers. After blooming for three weeks, pollinated flowers mature into green seed pods that turn black when ripe and are puffy and practically empty. The downy foliage is an attractive blue-green, which contrasts nicely with other nearby plants.

You may know Cream Wild Indigo as Plains Wild Indigo or Wild False Indigo.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 1-2 feet

Mature Spread: 2-3 feet

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Shrub - like

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Average, moist to sandy soils

Flower: Cream, yellow - white, pea family flowers

Bloom Period: Late spring to early summer

Foliage: Blue - green. Trifoliate.

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Legume

Suggested Uses

Cream Wild Indigo is found in prairies, savannas, and open woods in full sun with dry to moderate moisture in sandy or loamy soils. Much of the prairie habitat in the central U.S. was lost to farming and livestock grazing. The practice of land management through fire suppression also affected prairies by encouraging the growth of woody species which shaded out sun-loving prairie species. This is all to say that Cream Wild Indigo, is a slow-growing, slow-spreading, and full-sun-loving prairie native that is under-represented in the landscape. In some states, it is considered a threatened species. It prefers sites that are undisturbed by grazing and managed to suppress the growth of woody (think shrubs and trees, anything with bark) species that would out-compete it by blocking light exposure.

Restoration: Add a few plantings of Cream Wild Indigo among your plantings to provide biodiversity.

Cut Flowers: The dried seed pods can be used in arrangements!

Rock Gardens: With their ability to thrive in full sun and dry, sandy soils, Cream Wild Indigo grows well in rock gardens.

Cream Wild Indigo is a prairie species native to the central U.S. from Texas to Wisconsin. Showy racemes up to nine inches long are loaded with creamy…

Wildlife Value

Cream Wild Indigo is one of the first prairie plants to bloom in the spring. This makes it an important food source for nectar-loving insects that are newly hatching or just coming out of hibernation. Bumblebees, like the Two-Spotted Bumblebee, are major pollinators for Cream Wild Indigo. Other native bees like digger and mason bees collect nectar and pollen. The larvae of Orange Sulphur and Wild Indigo Duskywing butterflies, as well as of other skippers and moths, feed on foliage and stems. The Wild Indigo Weevil snacks on Cream Wild Indigo by entering the pods to feed on the seeds in their larval form, and eating other plant parts in adulthood. Beetles, grasshoppers, thrips, and more do so as well.

Foliage is toxic to mammals. Livestock has been observed to exhibit symptoms of poisoning when large amounts have been consumed.

Maintenance Tips

Cream Wild Indigo enjoys open spaces-keep the area clear of other plants that may block light.

Racemes may droop or crawl along the ground. This is normal and part of what sets it apart from White Wild Indigo and others.

When the season begins to draw to a close and the plant is dying back, it tends to break at the rootstock and “tumbleweed” around, releasing seeds in the process. Also normal, and kind of neat. Plant other natives nearby to prevent causing a mess or running away.

Cream Wild Indigo has a deep taproot and because of this, does not do well when transplanted. Pick where you want it to go and stick with it.

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: No
Deer Resistant:No
Rabbit Resistant: No

While foliage may occasionally be eaten by insects, this is just the plant fulfilling its role in the environment as a larval host for butterflies, moths, and skippers.

Although of no concern to the aesthetic value of the plant, Parasitic Weevils can infest the seed pods and consume the seeds, reducing overall viability. This insect does not reduce the overall vigor of the plant and may be considered beneficial as it reduces the rate that False Blue Indigo volunteers in the landscape.

Leaf Lore

The genus name Baptisia refers to the plant’s use as a dye. “Bapto” means “to dye.” The specific epithet leucophea refers to the color of the flowers, meaning “white” or “off-white.”

The common name, Wild False Indigo, refers to how settlers used to use Baptisia as a substitute for true indigo as a blue dye.

Companion Plants

In its native prairie setting, Cream Wild Indigo is found alongside Indian Grass, Big and Little Bluestem, Stiff Coreopsis, Sky Blue Aster, American Pasqueflower, Cup Plant, New Jersey Tea, Goldenrod, Leadplant, Compass Plant, Rattlesnake Master, and Purple Prairie Clover.

When found in glades and open woods, it would be near White Oak, dogwood, Black Cherry, and Pennsylvania Sedge.

Cream Wild Indigo is a prairie species native to the central U.S. from Texas to Wisconsin. Showy racemes up to nine inches long are loaded with creamy…
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Written by Julia Feltes