Growing Indigo Plants From Cuttings – How To Root Indigo Cuttings

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

There are many reasons to grow indigo (Indigofera tinctoria). If you use the leaves for a dye, you may regularly be in need of more plants. Whether you use them as a source of indigo dye, a cover crop, or just for bountiful late summer blooms, growing indigo plants from cuttings is not hard. There are a few methods you may use to propagate indigo from cuttings.

How to Take Indigo Cuttings

Take cuttings early in the morning from vigorous shoots on healthy plants. Try to pick a day following a rain so that cuttings will be turgid. Take extra clippings, a few more than you need to allow for those that don’t take root.

Cuttings should be four to six inches (10-15 cm.) long and contain at least one node (where the leaf will emerge) for indigo cutting propagation. Keep cuttings right side up, as an upside-down cutting won’t root. Avoid placing them in direct sun but do choose a warm spot in bright light.

  • Softwood cuttings: Take these in late spring through summer. Softwood cuttings taken too early in spring may rot before they root. Let them reach more maturity before clipping.
  • Semi-hardwood: If the blooms on your true indigo are winding down and you find you’d like more next year, grow some from semi-hardwood cuttings. Mid to late summer is the perfect time to find woody-based stems that have new growth. These usually root more slowly than softwood cuttings. Be patient. These will need winter protection and will flourish when planted out in spring.
  • Hardwood cuttings: For those who can grow true indigo as a perennial year round, such as zones 10-12, take cuttings and place in moist soil suitable for cuttings. Keep soil moist and, again, patience is vital.

How to Root Indigo Cuttings

The soil for rooting cuttings must have good drainage and the ability to hold them upright. Moisten soil before sticking cuttings.

Make sure there is a clean cut on the bottom of the cutting and remove bottom leaves. Leave just a few top leaves on each stem. Growing leaves divert the energy you want to be directed to the roots of your cutting. Clip off half of the top leaves, if desired. Apply rooting hormone to the bottom of the stem. Rooting hormone is optional. Some gardeners use cinnamon instead.

Make a hole in the medium with a pencil and stick in the cutting. Firm up around it. Covering the cuttings is also optional, but it is an extra layer of protection. If you wish to cover them, use some clear plastic and make a tent-like covering above plants. Use pencils, chopsticks or sticks from the yard to suspend it above the cuttings.

Keep the soil moist around cuttings, but not soggy. When you meet resistance from a gentle tug, cuttings have developed roots. Allow them to continue rooting for 10-14 days. Then plant out into the garden or individual containers.

Now that you’ve learned how to how to root indigo cuttings, you’ll always have plenty of these plants on hand.

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Propagating a Princess Flower

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Princess flower plants (Tibouchina spp.) can be shrubs with woody stems or herbaceous perennials, depending on the species. T. heteromalla grows to a height of 4 to 6 feet while T. urvilleana can grow to 12 feet tall and wide. Regardless of the species, all princess flower plants produce bright purple flowers all summer. If you have a friend or relative with a princess flower plant who is willing to let you propagate your own plant from theirs, you have four different methods from which to choose.

What is Baptisia?

Baptisia (Baptisia australis) is a flowering perennial plant that is a member of the legume family which includes peas and beans. It is native to Eastern and Central North America. Another name for baptisia is false indigo because its flowers produce a blue dye that was once used as a cheap alternative to true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), an Asian plant that was more expensive.

Baptisia is hardy in zones 3 – 9. In the wild, it can be found in meadows and open woods and along streams. The plants are quite tall, 3 – 4 feet in height and 3 – 4 feet in width. The leaves are a lovely blue-green. They are trifoliate meaning they grow in groups of three along the stem.

The flowers appear in the late spring. They are a striking blue color and look a lot like pea flowers. They grow on racemes (long flower stalks) like lupines. Newer hybrids have flowers that are yellow or purple. The flowers can be cut and used in arrangements.

Also used in flower arranging are the seed pods which appear after the flowers. They grow to 2 – 3 inches and look like pea pods but turn dark as they ripen. The seeds inside rattle in the breeze resulting in other common names for baptisia: rattle bush and rattle weed.

Baptisia is related to peas and its flowers look very much like pea flowers.

How to Harvest and Grow the Seeds of Blue Indigo

My wild blue indigo has many seed pods. Can I harvest these and grow new plants from the seed? Are there special tricks to germinating baptisia?

Answer: Yes, you can collect and sow the seeds of your wild or false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), though propagating this beautiful, blue-flowered perennial from seed can take patience. Once established, Baptisia australis is one of the longest-lived perennials around, so your patience will really pay off in the long run.

To collect the seed of wild blue indigo, wait until the seed pods turn black and begin to open on their own, or at least rattle when shaken. At this point remove the pods from their stalks, open them fully and pull the seeds from the pods. The seeds are round and relatively large (compared to many other seeds), so they're easy to handle. Viable seed will be brown or black in color, round and very hard.

Fresh indigo seed germinates fairly easily. You can sow it in the fall just after you collect it. If you'd rather wait, store it in the refrigerator, and when you're ready to sow it soak it in water for 24 hours first (starting with hot water). If you sow Baptisia australis seed in pots, start with 4-inch pots so the seedlings can develop some before needing to be transplanted. This is a tap-rooted perennial that does not much enjoy being transplanted. Seedlings can take three or four years before they flower, but after that this is a reliable, easy-to-grow perennial that can persist for decades.

False indigo (unrooted stem cuttings)

Plant details:
Genus & species: Amorpha fruticosa
Hardiness: Zone 4 to zone 9
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soil type: Tolerant of a variety of soil types
Soil moisture: Average to moist

Unrooted false indigo stem cuttings are sold in bundles of 5 and 15. For larger orderscontact Feralwood directly.

Unrooted stem cuttings of false indigo are composed of 1 or 2 year hardwood cuttings with a few leaf nodes present. The sloped cut will be the soil end, and the flat cut will be on the end where leaves will emerge. Cuttings will be at least 9 inches in length, usually more.

False indigo stem cuttings are easy to root with no special care or rooting hormones. It can be as simple as sticking the cutting in fertile, loose soil that is weed-free while it is dormant. Depth is important to keep the cutting moist where roots form, so make sure to get your cutting at least 3 inches deep and mulch it well. The cuttings can be prepared for planting this way in their permanent location in the fall, winter, or early spring in NC. Colder climates should plant this way in late fall OR early spring. Expect a 70 percent success rate in most cases.

False indigo is one of the best nitrogen-fixing leguminous shrubs native to much of the US. It responds very well to coppicing/pollarding, and is easy to propagate. Large lateral roots and tolerance of moist soils also make this a great candidate to assist in stream bank restoration and mitigate soil erosion.

Watch the video: How To Propagate Haskap Plants By Cuttings Honeyberries

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