Amorpha canescens

Amorpha canescens Lead Plant


 Confirmed Request

Growing in shrubs up to three feet tall, Lead Plant is topped by spike-like masses of tiny purple blossoms. Each flower has a single 1/4"-long petal curling around 10 orange-tipped stamens.  It prefers full sun but will tolerate part shade.  The branches will reach for light in partial shade conditions however, giving it a more sprawling form with less flowers.  It is not picky about soil type, and will grow in all types of medium to very dry sandy, gravel, loam, and clay.  Abundant bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other beneficial insects will be attracted to Lead Plant.

The plant's tough roots made pioneer plowing difficult, causing early Settlers to dub it "Devil's Shoestrings."  Other speculative accounts about its common name credit the dusky hue of the foliage or an old belief that the plant's presence was an indicator of sub-surface lead ore.

Its deep roots enable the plant to survive prairie fires and times of drought.  After very tough winters, it may die back to the ground but the extreme long-lived nature of Lead Plant and its deep tap root will usually allow it to recover.  It can be late to leaf out compared to other shrubs and trees, especially in northern climates, so be patient.

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

To properly inoculate your legume seed prior to planting, follow Germination Code I.  

Potted plants (3-packs) ship when all plants are well-rooted and transit-ready: Spring (May-June)** and Fall (Late August - September)
**Please note** Lead Plant is usually slow to root, so delivery in late June is anticipated for the Spring shipping season.
Amorpha canescens - Lead Plant

Map Key

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.

2 Questions asked on Amorpha canescens

Q Alton • January 13 Could this become an invasive in the 28609 zip area?
A Prairie Moon • January 15 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.
Q DAVE • May 9 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.
A Prairie Moon • May 10 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.

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, download: Seed Starting Basics.


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


Trays of 38 plants and 3-packs leave our Midwest greenhouse based on species readiness (well-rooted for transit) and based on order date; Spring shipping is typically early-May through June, and Fall shipping is late-August through September. Plant cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting instructions/care 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.

Shipping & Handling Charges:
SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
over $100.00: 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature will be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $7.50
over $50.00: 15% of the total plant cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature will 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 a day or two upon receipt.

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 38 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
C(10)     J     I
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium, Medium-Dry, Dry
3 feet
Bloom Time
June, July, August
Bloom Color
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Number