Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Lupine Flowers
Lupines, with their colorful spikes, are some of the most popular garden perennials of them! Lupinus includes hundreds of species, many native to North America. You’ll see them both in the wild and in gardens—from California to Maine.
Perhaps you’ve seen photos of one of the most famous lupines, the Texas Bluebonnet, which carpets fields and road sides every April, drawing many nature lovers.
Growing 1 to 4 feet tall, the leaves of lupine are grey-green with silvery hairs and the flowers resemble pea flowers. The seed pod looks like a hairy pea pod and contains up to 12 seeds.
- Lupines prefer moist, sandy, well-drained soil and cool temperatures. They can succeed on heavier soils, but you really need to loosen the soil for their long taproots.
- Select a spot in full sun or light shade.
- Loosen the soil to a depth of about 1 to 1-½ foot.
- Sow seeds directly in the ground in early spring or fall. Soak seeds in a bowl of warm water overnight before planting.
- If starting seedlings indoors, you can transplant them when they are about 4 to 6 weeks old. At this age they haven’t developed the long tap root and will have a better chance to survive.
- Dig a hole ½ inch deeper than the seedling pot and twice as wide. Space seedlings about 1 foot apart.
- Apply fertilizer every 4 weeks during the summer months.
- Taller varieties may need staking.
- Cut off faded flowers to promote more blooms.
- Save the seeds when the pods turn yellow.
- Don’t cut dead spikes in the fall, wait until spring.
- Add mulch around the plants for winter protection.
There are over 200 wild species of lupine, and most are North American natives. These usually have blue, white, or yellow flowers.
Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) is the blue perennial plant that grows in the eastern half of the North America.
Texas Bluebonnet (L. texensis) has dark blue flowers with white markings and cover fields and roadsides in Texas every April.
Russell hybrid lupines (L. polyphyllus) also called garden lupines have been the basic group from which all new hybrids are created.
The Russell Lupine Mix seeds are easy to grow and the tall flowers bloom in a variety of colors.
Lupine Woodfield Hybrids come in deeper shades and bicolored blooms.
Dwarf hybrids ‘Dwarf Lulu’ and ‘Minarette’ grow only to 1 ½ to 2 feet tall.
Wit & Wisdom
- Lupines are nitrogen-fixing and can improve your soil.
- Many species of lupine are poisonous to livestock.
- Lupines are deer-resistant.
- The lupine flowers are not edible, but the seeds are. The nut-like seeds were once a favorite food for traveling troops in ancient Europe.
- Lupine seeds can be ground into flour. In Europe this flour is used in baking.