Fertilizing False Indigo

False Indigo, also known as baptisia, does not require any addition of artificial fertilizers to be successful in the garden. Baptisia is a legume and has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil; adding fertilizer to the soil when planting could do more harm than good. Fertilizing baptisia can actually be counterproductive, causing the plant to become leggy and flop over. Fertilizing is not recommended for this perennial.

False Indigo is native to central and eastern North America and is particularly common in the Midwest. It does well in low nutrient soils that are slightly on the acidic side. If desired, compost may be added to soil at time of planting or added as a top dressing to already established plants. False Indigo is slow to get established and can take anywhere from  3 to 4 years to flower. Avoid wetting the leaves as this can result in the plant getting powdery mildew disease.


How to Fertilize False Indigo

False Indigo prefers soil that is well-drained and slightly on the acidic side. They do well in low nutrient soils and are not fond of commercial or artificial fertilizers. These fertilizers may actually burn the roots and cause more harm than good. In general, it is a good idea to steer away from these types of fertilizers and add compost to the soil when planting, or top dress an established plant with compost.

False indigo does best in well-drained soil and is drought tolerant once established. Avoid keeping the soil overly wet or planting baptisia in wet areas. Soggy soil will kill or damage the root system. 

Best Time To Fertilize False Indigo

Baptisia grows more vigorously and produces more flowers when given a top dressing of compost in early spring. If an alternate fertilizer is used, it should be a granular, slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer applied each spring at the rate suggested by the manufacturer. 


Best Fertilizer For False Indigo

False Indigo does best when a granular, slow-release fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 is applied each spring at the rate suggested by the manufacturer. Liquid fertilizers, such as Miracle Gro often contain salts that may damage the plant's roots. Slow-release fertilizers are less likely to cause damage, and break down at a slower rate in the soil, becoming available to the plant as needed.

False Indigo Fertilizing Tips

  • It is recommended that this perennial is not fertilized with a commercial formula.
  • False Indigo is a legume and can fix nitrogen in the soil.
  • This plant prefers slightly acidic soil. Do not add lime.


-Always wear protective gloves and a face mask when handling chemical fertilizers.

-Closely follow all directions and storage guidelines that are on the fertilizer label.

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Author Chris Link - Published 08-23-2022