Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

White-flowered Chinese Indigo

indigofera-incarnata-alba-finger-640

 

Wisteria's the biggest thrill in Spring: In-your-face (literally), all over the place (potentially)—maybe even visible from Google Earth.  Here's another Spring thrill, opposite in every way.  A groundcover, with flowers half hidden under the leaves, and pointing up, not hanging down.

 

This is Chinese indigo.  It's as far from a vine as you could be and still keep talking to your relatives:  The short stems don't twine at all.  Not so much as a do-si-do let alone a free-for-all.  All the more remarkable because this is a plant that insists on living as a community, not an individual.  There are so many stems in a colony, and so closely spaced, that the plant is a great groundcover:  Orderly as it is enthusiastic, easy as it is effective, and beautiful as it is unusual.

 

Could the lime-green leaves and small racemes of brilliant white flowers be more happy to see you?

 

indigofera-incarnata-alba-overall-640

 

White-flowered Chinese indigo is yet one more member of the immense pea family—which includes a couple of thousand species of shrubs, trees, vines, perennials, and annuals, among them about seven hundred different indigos alone—that your garden, truly, shouldn't be without.  Of course, have wisteria overhead; have a half-dozen of them.  But also have Chinese indigo at your feet.

 

 

Here's how to grow this unusual groundcover:

 

Latin Name

Indigofera incarnata 'Alba'

Common Name

White-flowered Chinese Indigo

Family

Fabaceae, the Pea family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous woody groundcover.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 8

Habit

A groundcover thanks to underground stoloniferous woody stems, wide-spreading, from which rise the vertical above-ground stems of leaves and flowers.  Dense enough to be effective as a groundcover, it forms pure colonies.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

Eighteen inches high and a colony six feet or more across.

Texture

In leaf, bright green, eager, and delicate; it looks somewhat like a sweet pea that has morphed into a shrubby groundcover.  The white flowers are in short upward racemes from the lower portion of the stems, so would be a bit hidden by the foliage if they weren't so marvelously bright white, adding "inner highlights" to the overall look.

 

Out of leaf in cold weather, this isn't a groundcover with Winter-interest talent.

Grown for

its rarity outside its native haunts.

 

the foliage texture.

 

the "Oxydol White" flowers, gleaming through the foliage even though they arise from the lower half of the vertical stems.

 

its effectiveness as a groundcover.

 

Flowering season

Mid Spring: Late May in Rhode Island.

Culture

Any normal soil.  Full sun.  Tolerates part shade, but don't think of this as a shade-garden groundcover.  Because the plant is only fully hardy to Zone 6, you can extend its hardiness by planting it in an extremely well-draining location—on a slope, say—and mulching it.  Plan on cutting it down to the ground in early Spring; it will probably have died back to the ground anyway. 

How to handle it

This is a groundcover, so plant it where it's the shortest thing in the neighborhood, so it can spread out into and beneath the higher plants nearby without swamping smaller things in its wake. 

 

In a rough Winter there could be a lot of die-back; it might be easiest just to cut your colony down to the ground in early Spring regardless:  The plant blooms only on the new shoots, so the wood from last year isn't particularly helpful anyway. 

Downsides

Untroubled by diseases or pests.

Variants

The species has pale-pink flowers, not nearly as showy or flexible in harmonizing with other colors.  'Alba' goes with everything:  red, pink, yellow, blue, burgundy, orange, and gray.  The pink flowers of the species only go with white, pink, blue, burgundy, and gray.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Division in Spring.

Native habitat

China

 
 
FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!

 

Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:

 

* indicates required