Amorpha canescens

Lead Plant

$3.00 - $300.00

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.
1/2 oz.
1 oz.
1 lb.

Bare Root Plants

3 Pack
Out of Stock
Tray of 50
Out of Stock

Lead Plant takes several years to mature, but it's well worth the wait!  It blooms in early summer, sending out dusky lavender spikes that erupt from bottom to top with bright purple blossoms.  Each tiny, tubular flower spits out orange stamens, creating a unique and spectacular floral display that floats above delicate-looking, silvery green foliage. 

Amorpha canescens prefers full sun but will tolerate part shade. However, it tends to sprawl and produces fewer flowers in partial or deep shade.  This hardy plant will thrive in any medium to dry soil, unphased by sand, gravel, loam, or clay. Deep roots, sometimes reaching 15 feet into the earth, enable Lead Plant to survive prairie fires and times of drought.  It may die back to the ground after an extremely harsh winter, but will usually recover within a growing season or two. The plant's tough roots made pioneer plowing difficult, causing early Settlers to dub it "Devil's Shoestrings." Other speculative accounts about the common name, Lead Plant, credit the dusty, gray hue of the foliage or an old belief that the plant's presence was an indicator of sub-surface lead ore.

Lead Plant is one of the larval hosts of the Dog Face Sulphur, also known as Southern Dogface. It will also attract abundant bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other beneficial insects. It is generally deer-resistant once established, but rabbits, deer, and other grazing animals may browse on it during its establishment years, so it may need extra protection early on.

Species of genus Amorpha are legumes. Most legume species harbor beneficial bacteria called rhizobia on their roots. Genus-specific strains of this bacterium called inoculum can aid in the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and improve long-term health of native plant communities. Inoculum is naturally-occurring in most soils and additional amendment is usually not needed. However, in low fertility soils it may be necessary. Genus-specific strains are available at

Live Plant Shipping Table

Spring Fall Age/Size
Dormant Bare Roots
April/May October 4 years/10"
Potted 3-Packs May/June September 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep pots
Potted Trays of 50 N/A August 2" wide x 5" deep plugs

Amorpha canescens - Lead Plant

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

8 Questions asked on Amorpha canescens

Could this become an invasive in the 28609 zip area?
It seems highly unlikely given the conservative characteristics of Lead Plant. But, you are outside of the natural range of Lead Plant and sometimes a plant species will behave differently from the Upper Midwest where we are, to NC and the mid-Atlantic where you are.

If you keep your plants under observation I think you will be fine.
Hi, I have been taking care of and monitoring the bare roots I purchased and planted last fall. Most plants did well and are taking hold but the 3 Lead Plant are doing nothing. Please advise.
Hi Dave. I see by your email that you are in IA. It's still early for this upland, dry prairie shrub to come out of dormancy. Lead Plant is a true shrub so it should leaf out from the woody branches, but also look for new growth from the base. It's been a cold spring so late-May or early-June could be when you see this. It was a very tough winter so if last years' branches are brittle and snap off that doesn't necessarily mean the whole plant winter-killed. Again, look for that silvery foliage from the base if there are not noticeable buds on the branches.
I read in one of my native plant books that if you cut lead plant to the ground early spring they will grow back thicker and larger, is this true?
Hi Cathy, Yes, you can prune Lead Plant back to the ground in fall, winter, or spring. Lead Plants are naturally small shrubs so they won’t get much larger than 3 feet tall, but pruning will help promote branching making the plant appear thicker and bushier over time.
You have planted lead plant two years ago, many are 3’ or taller but they have yet to bloom, how do I get them to bloom?
Hi Kate, Sometimes long-lived perennials like lead plant can take 3-5 years before their first bloom. Sounds like they are growing well, so I would just be patient for now.
Planted a bare root lead plant this year and it did well! I want to set it up for success, what’s the best way to prune it before next year?
Yearly pruning may not be necessary for Leadplant, but if you choose to prune aim for a late winter or early spring time frame. Prune down to the ground or to about 12 inches in height.
We have a high level of deer browse in my area. How long will I need to protect the young plant before it should be able to hold its own? Is there a size it needs to reach first?
Hi Nick. There is not a definitive rule, but if browsing is a known issue, protect the Lead Plants until they reach at least 1' tall or until they are mature enough to bloom. This way, even if the plants do get chomped, the roots are developed and strong enough to regrow the following year.
I'd like to add leadplant to my 4 year old, 1 acre, shortgrass prairie. How much seed would you recommend?
Hi Ken. We recommend 1 to 3 ounces of Lead Plant per diverse planting acre. If you intend to dethatch or burn your prairie in the near future, it would be ideal to sow any new seed into the site shortly after that maintenance.
Is this plant appropriate as house foundational plantings?
Hi Kelly. While really attractive in a prairie, and a pollinator magnet, no, I don't think Lead Plant will satisfy the bushy appearance of many landscaping shrubs. Try Shrubby St. John's Wort, American Cranberry Bush, Prairie Ninebark or Winterberry Holly.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

US Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium, Medium-Dry, Dry
3 feet
Bloom Time
June, July, August
Bloom Color
Pollinator Favorite: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps, beetles
Deer Resistant
Highly recommended for home landscaping
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code