Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Roughhairy indigo
Indigofera hirsuta

Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Indigofera (in-dee-GO-fer-uh) (Info)
Species: hirsuta (her-SOO-tuh) (Info)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

2 members have or want this plant for trade.


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall
Mid Fall


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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to view:

By onalee
Thumbnail #1 of Indigofera hirsuta by onalee

By onalee
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By andihazelwood
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Thumbnail #4 of Indigofera hirsuta by andihazelwood


1 positive
1 neutral
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative gtbabic On Nov 7, 2013, gtbabic from The Villages, FL wrote:

Invasive and persistent in central FL. Seems to like poor sandy soils. Will spread readily. Maybe not an issue in an agricultural setting but a nightmare for a garden. Roundup does kill it, but it has reappeared in areas where I have hit it with Roundup so seeds must last from one season to the next.If you want to eliminate it, it is imperative to get it before the red flowers show.

Negative gooley On Feb 24, 2009, gooley from Hawthorne, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

It is tough. It fixes nitrogen. It may suppress root-knot and other destructive soil nematodes. Otherwise it is a nightmare in northern peninsular Florida, unless you REALLY want to make your own indigo dye the old-fashioned way (harvest leaves of the blooming plants, mix them with water, and allow bacteria to eat away the sugar group naturally attached to the dye molecule as someone or something keeps agitating the mix to keep it aerated; it's not as good a dye plant as the true indigo in the same genus, but it comes close). Sometimes frost hits early enough here that the seeds are not mature when the plants die, but usually it does not. Seeds can persist in the soil for decades, and disturbing any soil containing seeds increases the risk that they will sprout. (Maybe pre-emergence herbicides help, but I haven't tried them yet.) Some genius at U Florida is alleged to have introduced this plant from Africa some decades back and promoted its use. It is ubiquitous on the sunnier parts of my 36 acres near Gainesville, and if I don't hoe or pull it young it takes over my vegetable garden, rose beds, or anywhere else without a good thick crop of vegetation already present. Cattle MIGHT graze on plants that are very young and still tender, but I understand that it is not a favored food, and that the "hairs" on mature plants irritate grazing animals on dewy mornings. Do not plant this on purpose.

Neutral Kameha On Apr 26, 2005, Kameha from Kissimmee, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant is invasive in Florida and it first came up near my shampoo ginger patch. The seeds are barbed so they attach to clothing easily and that's probably how they spred so fast. It is a legume and is a good cover crop. I've heard that its leaves can be used to dye fabric blue like the common indigo. Like the name suggests, its leaves are very soft, hairy, and somewhat velvet textured. Its an attractive weed but again invasive. It has pretty red flowers that appear year round.

Positive onalee On Nov 20, 2004, onalee from Brooksville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

Erect-prostrate climbing annual, producing heavy foliage on fine stems that become rather coarse in later stages of development. Grows well on poor sandy land. Yields good quality forage that can be used for hay and pasture.

Farmers and ranchers found the plant useful; green cropping (cultivated for plowing under) with the legume improved soil for crops like melons and strawberries and cattle gained more weight when it was part of their forage.

Dougall and Bogdan (1966) analysed I. hirsuta forage as containing 23.8 percent crude protein, 2.0 percent ether extract, 15.2 percent crude fibre, 46.8 percent nitrogen-free extract, 1.88 percent calcium and 0.37 percent phosphorus, but Kalmbacher et al. (1980) showed that crude protein and in vitro organic matter digestibility are greatly influenced by time of sampling, declining rapidly as the plant material ages. Early cut material contained 24 percent crude protein.

Free-seeding and regenerating readily each year, hairy indigo's tolerance of low soil pH and fertility coupled with its resistance to root knot nematode make it an attractive legume for poor sandy soils in Florida.

I personally use this plant for two purposes: to provide high protien forage for my sheep and to improve soil in old garden areas. It also has nice red flowers that are quite attractive to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Brooksville, Florida
Ellenton, Florida
Hawthorne, Florida
Kissimmee, Florida
Lake City, Florida
Valrico, Florida

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