Here's a legume that's out of control…Baptisia 'Prairie Twlight Blues,' the two giant mounds next to my porch.  Each plant is four feet tall if it's an inch and expanding to the size of an SUV.  This is hybrid vigor on steroids.  'Prairie Twilight Blues' is spectacular in bloom, and not at all blue–more of a moody purple and yellow.  It's spectacular out of bloom, too, a great plant if you are trying to fill a perennial bed the size of a football field.

But proving problematic in a crowded city yard!  Last year, I had kniphofia blooming with the same red Asiatic lilies you can see in the photo above:

I LOVE kniphofia.

This year, the baptisia have shaded them to the point that they are doing nothing.  They are also shading my Alba Maxima rose, crowding out a tree peony, and giving me no view whatsoever of a spectacular biennial foxglove and some dahlias.

They have got to go!  Somewhere else.  Though baptisia are hard to move by reputation–they send down a long, strong taproot that doesn't want to be broken off–I don't care.  Next spring, they will either be further in the background of this picture, or out.


  1. Good luck with the move…I might be attempting the same dance but w/ the steps reversed (a baptisia trapped inside a growing colony of green-headed coneflower) it was a sad legumy globe this past May, one year after I had bragged on it to everyone who would listen.

  2. A lot of baptisia ‘twilight’ hate going on lately (see Gardening Gone Wild ala Nan). That’s ok. It took 3 years for mine to get your size, which would be this year, and though much more a beast then I figured, they are so unique–from flower color, to seed pods, the bluish smooth leaves, to the butterfly larvae on them. It’s welcome to grow the size of an elephant in my 1500 square feet if it wants to.

  3. Just prune them back to the ground over and over and they will run out of juice eventually. I have transplanted some that handled it ok and they were massive so it can be done, but why bother, better plants can be bought for $10 or less.

  4. Here’s a thought. Since baptisia sends up individual stems from an expanding crown remove a third to half of them at the ground mid spring before they fully leaf out to contain the size of the plant. That would likely cause it to be shorter as well since there will be less competition between shoots for light. You may be able to have your baptisa and kniphofia too.

    In my world it is called maintenance.

  5. I’ve moved several baptisias over the years, and they’ve all survived well. The trick is to dig a really deep and generous rootball around the plant as soon it is about 6″ tall in the spring, and off you go. Do not try to divide it at the same time! To control size, Christopher C’s suggestion should work well. I also shear my baptisias lightly after bloom, taking care to leave some seedpods to ripen (They’re beautiful, and my kids love playing with them too).

    Good Luck!

  6. Last year I moved a Baptisia from my yard to my son’s new home in mid summer. I told him to keep watering it even though it looked like it was deader than dead. Yes, it came up just fine this year. So they can be moved if you are fanatic about watering it after the move.

    I planted my ‘Twilight’ in a large empty bed where it has thrived and had nothing else to overwhelm. But the species plants in my front bed are running rampant. I’ve got to do some very serious thinning of them this summer.

    I’m getting more careful about pulling up the seedlings now so I don’t have this problem in the future!

  7. Just prune it after it blooms to keep its size in check. No need to dig out such beautiful healthy plants.

    Baptisia is one of the gardening plants I miss since moving from the east coast. I had quite a nice collection of them in my old garden.

  8. Newbie gardeners (sorry, and you really should know better than to crowd a Baptisia) should realize that most prairie plants’ placement should be well thought in advance. Long taproots typically resent disturbance, but I’ve had success with asclepias… albeit quite sad at first. Good luck.

  9. Yes I too moved a large Baptisia with success, and yes pruning back after blooming might work, but frankly I would shovel prune what you have and replace with the dwarf Baptisia. After five years mine are 2.5 x 2.5 with clear purple flowers and the same trouble free pea like foliage.

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