Indigo Bush or False Indigo (Amorpha fruiticosa) is one of my favorite late spring blooming shrubs/small trees. Its deep purple blooms, bright orange stamens and fine textured leaves are a welcoming contrast to the many white blooming, larger leaved native shrubs (See photos). According to “Plants of the Chicago Region” it’s native to Kane, DuPage, Cook, Will Kankakee, Grundy , McHenry, Boone Counties in north- eastern Illinois. The preference for this plant is medium to moist soils in full sun-mostly sun. It looks very much like its cousin, Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) but the Leadplant prefers drier soils, only grows 2-3′, and has light-medium purple flowers.
My Indigo Bush is about 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide , but its thin branches and small leaves make it a very transparent tree (You can see plants underneath and behind it). The Possibility Place Nursery recommends cutting it down to the ground every few years to prevent it from getting leggy but I haven’t had to do this. The only pruning I have done is to cut a couple of branches that were overhanging the path leading to my prairie. Although I’ve read it can form thickets, it hasn’t yet in my yard, even though it gets plenty of water with the downspout next to it. I often take some seed pods to the Wild One Greater DuPage Seed Exchange, if you want to grow one.
Its benefits include the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil as do other members of the legume family, attracts many types of pollinators, especially bees, and it is the host plant for several butterflies and moths. It might make a good plant for a rain garden, low spot in your yard, or near a downspout, where I have placed mine. It gets two thumbs up from me!