How To Grow Lupines
Once you’ve successfully grown Lupines, you’re likely to be hooked for life. You will love the outstanding color of densely-packed flower spikes, and the palmate foliage also graces the garden with fabulous texture and form.
Lupines are deer resistant and make a great addition to a low-maintenance meadowscape or cottage-style garden. Lupines attract bees and butterflies of all sorts with their multi- and bi-colored flowers, and are a great choice for pollinator gardens.
Lupines are a legume, which means that they fix nitrogen in the soil and they enrich your soil health. Intensively planting lupine can increase your soil fertility.
Some of our favorite native wildflowers across the United States are in the Lupine family, from the famous Texas Bluebonnet (L. texensis), to the eye-popping displays of violet-blue Arroyo Lupines (L.succulentus). Perennial Lupine (L. perennis), the classic favorite is still wildly popular, as are the impressively colorful Russell Lupine hybrids (L. polyphyllus), bred from Perennial lupines during the 20th century.
Lupine Life Cycles
Annual Lupines, including Texas Bluebonnets and Arroyo Lupines, have a one-year lifecycle. In warmer climates with the right growing conditions, they may reseed. In colder climates where plants can't overwinter, it's best to reseed each year.
Perennial Lupine and Russell Lupine are perennials, so these plants will return year after year from their established root systems.
When & Where To Plant Lupine
Choose a sunny site with average, well-draining soil. Lupines are legumes and can improve a soil’s fertility over time.
Light: Full sun is preferred. Lupine can grow in part shade, but flowering will be lessened.
Soil: Lupine needs well-draining soil above all else. They prefer soil on the acid side and will not tolerate high levels of alkalinity or water-logged conditions. Russell hybrids (L. polyphyllus) have more tolerance for moist conditions than many other species. Avoid sites where plants will suffer from wet soil during the winter months.
Spacing: If broadcasting seed, broadcast at a rate of approximately 1 pound per 1000 feet. If planting mature plants, space larger varieties 2-3’ apart, smaller varieties 12-18” apart.
Lupines are deep-rooted and do not spread except through re-seeding. Seeds will not come true to the original variety planted, but will eventually revert to blue-violet and white.
The most important thing to note before planting Lupines, is that they are available as both annuals and perennials. While Lupine seeds may yield both annual (life cycle complete in one growing season) and perennial (long-lived, coming back each spring) varieties, potted Lupine plants are typically perennial cultivars.
Tips For Growing Lupine Plants:
- Upon delivery in early spring, plant immediately in a hole that has been amended with organic matter and grit for good drainage.
- Do not allow mulch or other organic matter to touch the crown of the plant, as it could introduce rot.
- Water in thoroughly.
Tips For Growing Lupine Seeds:
- They have a very tough seed coat, and it’s a good idea to either soak seeds for 24-48 hours, or roughen them between two sheets of sandpaper before planting.
- Lupine seeds can be planted in very early spring, but tend to do better if planted in late spring and allowed to overwinter, blooming in the following spring.
- Tamp down the seeds well – making sure they make good soil-to-seed contact. Water, and if the weather is dry, water lightly until germination, which can take up to 10 days.
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How To Grow Lupine Throughout The Season
Growth Habit: These spring-blooming beauties are not tolerant of high heat or humidity. Lupine has a rounded habit and grows from 12-48” high depending on species or variety. Individual flowers resemble those of peas and are densely packed on spikes above the foliage.
Staking: Tall Lupines stand very straight on their own and do not require staking. For Russell species grown in garden settings, you may want to stake flower spikes if you live in an area with high winds.
Watering: For the first few months, make sure that Lupine plants are getting adequate water for good root development (they are deeply rooted), but let the soil dry out between waterings. After that, water only during periods of drought or very dry spells.
Fertilizing & Mulching: Extra fertilizing is not necessary, but a top dressing of compost is appreciated for perennials, as long as it isn’t placed close to the crown of the plant.
Trimming & Pruning: Lupines can bloom again lightly on side shoots if immediately deadheaded. However, if seeds have begun to form in the lower parts of the flower, they are unlikely to repeat their bloom.
End Of Season Care For Lupines
Dividing & Transplanting: Lupines have deep roots and do not transplant well as they get bigger. Lupines do not need to be divided.
Pests & Disease: Lupine can suffer from powdery mildew, particularly in hot and humid climates. There are no other major pests for this plant besides pill bugs (roly-polys, sow bugs) which like to eat the seeds and seedlings.
Additional Concerns: Lupine seeds are actually cultivated as a food crop in some areas of the world, however, we do not recommend using these seeds in any culinary way.
Companion Plants For Lupine
- Wildflower species of Lupine look absolutely magnificent carpeting a spring meadow, planted on their own or paired with other early summer wildflowers like California Poppy (native), Indian Paintbrush (native), or Daisies.
- One of the most striking combinations seen with lupines in a garden setting is Tulips! Tulip bulbs are planted in fall - and you can sow Lupine seeds on the bare soil after bulbs have been tucked in. In spring, the Lupine foliage will develop nicely and provide a beautiful backdrop for the Tulips. Once the Tulips have bloomed well, the Lupines are right behind, showcased by their own foliage.
- Perennials including Peonies and Bearded Irises are also terrific for pairing with Lupines, as they share a late-spring/early-summer bloom time.
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