Indigofera pendula

If there was a people’s choice plant from our garden openings this summer then this would win it by a landslide. No one had seen it before, everyone wanted to know what it was and a few declared their intention to get one if they could.

It comes from China where it was discovered by Delavay in 1887, then introduced by Forrest in 1914. According to Bean it grew at Kew but was killed to the ground by hard frosts, growing up again from the roots. Nick Macer (Pan Global Plants) describes it as recently re-introduced from China and Crûg Farm Plants list it, having grown it from seed collected in Yunnan. Roy Lancaster also saw it growing in China and refers to subsequent introductions.

My plant was purchased from Treseder’s Nursery three years ago and spent its first winter with me in a pot in my tunnel. Planted out in spring 2020 it made good growth but unfortunately in the winter was blown to an alarming lean. I staked it and cut all its new growth back to around 15cm from where they arose from the main stem. It has regrown very strongly, with numerous stems over a metre long. These have been flowering since July and in mid September there are buds still to come. It was probably at its best in mid August.

It was planted in an open sunny position, in free draining soil, as per every recommendation I could find. Hardiness doesn’t seem to be an issue here in Cornwall but it seems that even if it does suffer damage, it will regrow, even from the ground if the top is completely killed.

The stems carry pinnate leaves, well spaced and with small leaflets, creating a light and graceful effect. My bush is 2.4m tall, about half of which is this year’s growth. I plan to shorten it again in late winter and expect it to reach 3-3.5m eventual height.

The flowers are carried in long racemes on the new wood, the flowers opening from the basal end of the raceme. Most racemes are between 30 and 40cm; the longest I measured at 57cm. When the flowers are spent they fall off, so the older racemes have a long length of slender bare stem, then a section of blooms, then the remaining unopened buds. The flowers are a somewhat subdued shade of pink, easily outshone by brighter colours.

16 thoughts on “Indigofera pendula

  1. It looks almost like watersprouts that develop from the stump of a black locust that was cut down, or Caesalpinia californica, which is native to chaparral and desert regions of Southern California. The flowers are very distinctive though.


    1. It doesn’t have the spines of black locust, and I’ve seen suckers 8 or 9 feet tall from stumps of that; beastly plant. Caesalpinia is on page four of my very very long list of failures. Too cold? Too wet? Too cold and wet?

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      1. Oh, I do not expect thorns. Although I am unfamiliar with it, I know enough about other species to remember that at least they lacks thorns. Perhaps it was impolite to compare it to black locust. Gads! That is a dreadful species! Although I am unfamiliar with the popular species of Caesalpinia, the Caesalpinia californica is a desert or chaparral plant that likes warm and dry summers. Even here, they are marginal, and none to pretty. However, some of the others, although appreciative of warmth, should tolerate moisture.


      2. Exactly. I would like to grow the Caesalpinia californica as well as it does in Palm Springs, but would not want to be limited by that sort of climate. Yuck!


      3. Palm Springs is . . . interesting. I found the oasis beyond town to be very fascinating. They were cool and shaded by the native desert fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, which is my favorite palm. All of the weird desert flora within the oasis is fascinating. However, the climate is harsh. It gets quite cold at night during winter, and quite warm and arid during summer. It was 120 degrees while we were there, and very dry. The scenery is captivating, but also harshly bleak. I am glad that I saw it when I did, because Palm Springs has become an overly liberal party town since then.


    1. There were other things that were barely noticed, like the 6 foot Begonia luxurians, that left me somewhat puzzled. It doesn’t matter how extraordinary a plant is, if it doesn’t have reasonably showy flowers, most people will walk right past it.


    1. I pruned mine because it was top heavy and falling over. It shows no inclination to weepiness at the moment but with more weight on the twigs I could see it doing that. I have a few cuttings in the propagator at the moment but don’t expect them to root, I see people are offering seed on the internet.


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