fbpx Leadplant | The Morton Arboretum


Flowers of lead plant.

Leadplant is a upright, rounded shrub, native to the Midwest, that does well in dry sandy to clay soil; the attractive gray-green foliage adds nice contrast in rock gardens.  The purplish-blue flower spikes in June and July serve as a host to caterpillars, as well as a nectar source for butterflies, and a food source for birds. 


"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."   

Botanical name:

Amorpha canescens

All common names:


Family (English):


Family (Botanic):

Fabaceae (formerly Leguminosae)

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial,
  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Small shrub (3-5 feet),
  • Low-growing shrub (under 3 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6

Soil Preference:

  • Dry soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Blue,
  • Purple

Shape or Form:

  • Mounded,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

2 to 4 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide shrub.
Leadplant is a tallgrass prairie native, forming an upright densely compact habit. 
Best in sunny, well-drained to dry soil.

Although this is a woody shrub, it often dies to the ground in winter.
May be cut to the ground in early spring.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 9
Native to the Midwest and Great Plains.
Commonly found in dry prairies.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Nectar source for butterflies such as the painted lady, red admiral, fritillaries, sulphurs, and blues.
Birds, including the goldfinch, sparrow, titmouse, and junco are attracted to the plant’s seeds.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, compound leaves with 15 to 45 pair of oval-shaped leaflets.
Attractive,  gray-green color adds nice contrast in rock gardens.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Lavender-blue flowers with yellow anthers occur on multiple terminal spikes.
Flowers June and July.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Flattened, 1/4 inch seed pods persist into winter; not ornamentally important.



Location of Amorpha canescens (Leadplant) at the Arboretum