Problems with Baptisia

totallyconfusedJune 2, 2010

This past weekend I hard pruned both my Baptisia to about 15 inches, as I have read some others have done. I had never done this before, but last year they both spent most of the summer laying down and smothering their neighbors. Now today I noticed that some of the leaves have sooty black spots on them (think mildew on fabric), so I cut those branches back to the ground. So I guess my questions are: Did I do something wrong? What should I do now? I hope I haven't done any permanent damage. I've lost quite a few plants to rabbit damage already this year, an early infestation of leaf miners has caused my columbines to lose their leaves even earlier than usual, and many of my annuals are still looking iffy thanks to a late frost right after Mother's Day. Seems it's going to be one of those years where I wonder why I even bother.

Totally Confused

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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Mine is falling all over a neighboring plant this year and it hasn't done it quite that bad before. I do have mine in less than full sun and I use a ring which usually keeps it upright and neat, but not this year for some reason. Is yours in part sun? I don't have any m*ildew on mine. I don't water it often at all. It has never shown any signs of being too dry which is one of the few p*lants that doesn't. Have you been watering it a lot?

Everyone has years like that, I'm sure. Mine was last year. [g] With the rabbit damage, I'm not sure what to tell you, I haven't had a rabbit problem really. Last year there was one rabbit in the yard but all I ever saw him eat was the clover in the lawn, which we have a lot of. Leaf miners on Columbine, I've had that problem. Mine is much better this year than previously. The past three years, I've cut off all the foliage that was effected as soon as I noticed it and threw it in the trash. I haven't seen one leaf miner this year so far. I should go give a concentrated look though, thanks for the reminder. Last year, I even cut all the foliage off a few plants and it grew back nice fresh pretty foliage for the rest of the season. So don't give up, that problem can clear up with some consistency of not allowing the effected foliage to stay in the g*arden.

Annuals? Hmmm....I'd trim off any damage and make sure they get water when they need it and if any of them fail to recover for you, well, pretty soon all the nurseries will be selling annuals for 1/2 price. I always end up picking up something great to take care of a few problem areas and I wait for those sales.

Hang in there. You could end up with the best year ever. Just keep chipping away at each little problem.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 7:41AM
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The one baptisia get sun until about 3PM, the other slightly less. The one in slightly less sun is not as full as the other, but it is also a year younger. The spots look different from the mildew I have seen on other plants, so I don't think that is what it is. Some other type of fungus perhaps. I haven't been watering them much, but the humidity has been quite high already. I've made a note to myself to try the peony rings next year. I'm not convinced hard pruning was the best thing to do, but only time will tell.

I'm hoping the columbines will send up some new growth. Last summer I think I did two or three rounds of cutting them down and letting them grow back. They ususally don't get so bad so early in the season (not all of them have even finished blooming), but then everything seems to be about 3 weeks ahead of schedule this year.

As for the annuals, I'm trimming the damage as they put on enough new growth to sustain themselves. I'm not holding out much hope for finding replacements. I've already been back to most of the nurseries I frequent, but no one has had any left, if they even had any to begin with. I get more frustrated with the selection and availability of annuals every year.

Thanks for you reply

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 11:05AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I'm going to have to cut my Baptisia back but in the past, I've just taken off a little of the top growth. Maybe a third and not more than that. Yours should be okay, even with the hard pruning.

Yes, everything is 3 weeks ahead.

Gee, that's too bad about the lack of annuals. In my area, I've not run into that problem. Maybe there is a new nursery to try that is a little further of a drive?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 7:29PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I have Baptisia 'Twilight Prairie Blues' and 'Carolina Moonlight' growing in the southwest corner of the lot near the sidewalk. It is partial sun, not full sun because of overhanging maple branches. This is their 3rd year there and they are huge this year. They are gorgeous! They haven't ever flopped, but they do lean a bit towards the sun. Except for new transplants, I don't water this bed, it's my xeric garden. It is very dry and the soil is sandy.

Baptisia is a drought-tolerant, nitrogen fixing plant, and grows well in lean soil and dry prairies. Perhaps it is more prone to flopping if the soil is too rich and moist? As for the spots, not sure what that is? Perhaps you shocked it with the hard pruning, but I doubt you could kill the Baptisia. They are very long-lived rugged plants.

Here's a pic, you can see they're leaning, but not flopping -

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 8:50AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Terrene, my soil is a loamy clay and perhaps it is rich. I have the same problem of flopping with Nepeta even in the worst soil on our property and it's in full sun.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 11:21AM
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Mine are in a raised planting bed that was filled with a mix of bagged topsoil and Leaf-gro.

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 1:42PM
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leslie197(z5 MI)

I am probably one of the people you read who posted on GW about cutting back Baptisia very hard. I cut my Purple Smoke back to 12 inches or so every year after bloom. It looks awful (just stalks)for a couple weeks (I place a round pot with annuals, usually coleus in front of it) but it regrows fairly quickly. It gets nearly as tall as it was originally and stays nice looking and very upright until hard frost.

I cut mine back because it tends to flop open after blooming and also to save space in my rather small backyard. I garden on very heavy compacted clay soil. The Baptisia can only live in the upper garden next to my patio - one of the prime areas in my yard for plants that don't like it outright wet (and sometimes flooded).

I have never had my Baptisia do the mildew thing after cutback, but then my climate is very different from yours (cooler and less humid) and my garden is not prone to mildew. I think that because of having to grow and then regrow almost completely that my plant might spread/increase at a slower rate, but it is a big healthy plant and handles it well.

I'm sure your Baptisia will regrow well and reasonably quickly (maybe a little slower because of the mildew).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 9:30PM
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capecodder(z6 MA)

My baptisia, healthy and upright, only had 1 flowering stalk this year. Any one know why? What would cause it? My other plants are, as others mention, way ahead of their usual time, and except the ones eaten by rabbits, are doing very well.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Capecoder, my Baptisia, healthy and upright also, had just 2 blooming stalks this year. I don't know why, either. I suspect, maybe, frost? We had a very hard freeze after several weeks of warmer than usual spring weather. Many things were affected that were in full bloom. The baptisia was just budding up at the time, but no apparent frost bitten damage shows on it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 4:33PM
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Well, isn't this interesting. I have about a dozen baptisias, more than ten years old. I had hardly any flowers this year--totally mystifying. My best plant had none at all. I was trying to figure out what was going on til I read your posts. Could it be the lack of sun last summer? Tho that would affect trees and shrubs more than perennials.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 8:21PM
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The good news is that I'm seeing new growth and not seeing anymore blackened leaves. Maybe I haven't killed them afterall.

Thanks for the help.

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 7:28AM
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Wilting Baptisia???? My four year old Baptisia is suddenly wilting at the tips and the flower buds are falling off. Any suggestions? We just came off of a week straight of rain, but other than that, the plant has not undergone any changes.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 9:11PM
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