Flowers have ways of capturing our attention due to their forms, colors, and scents. It is sometimes referred to as a blossom or bloom. One of the popular summer-flowering perennials is lupine. Lupines are tall, lush spires with bright-colored flowers. They are valued for their ability to thrive in harsh conditions.
Lupines effectively make a statement in your backyard garden. You will often see lupines planted in mixed colors and vertically in a cottage garden. These plants are impressive and beautiful when they are planted in groups in wildflower gardens or meadows, especially if you allow them to grow freely and naturally. However, lupines don’t make a good container plant due to their deep taproots, cone-shaped spiky flowers, which are often used in cut-flower arrangements.
In this article, we will discuss how to grow lupines in your backyard, from basic care tips to things to know, as well as the pros and cons of this beautiful perennial plant.
What Are Lupines?
Lupines are flowering perennials that not only thrive but also self-sow and flourish despite challenging conditions. They are relatives of the pea family and their flowers are similar to pea blossoms. Lupine flowers are tightly grouped on cone-shaped spikes.
Lupines’ flowers bloom from the bottom up and feature different colors on the same plant. The hues can range from soft pastels to vivid and deep violets, blues, and reds. When the flowers wither, they are replaced with flat pea-shaped seed pods.
Lupine comes in about 200 species and is widely found in the Mediterranean area. There are also many on the prairies of Western North America. Some plant lupine as ornamentals due to its attractive and vivid flowers, while some species are used as cover and forage crops.
Lupine is derived from a Latin term that means “wolf.” It is believed to deplete or “wolf” minerals from the soil. Thus, lupines fix soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air in the soil, which is beneficial to other plants. Here are some of the basic information about lupines:
Botanical Name: Lupinus polyphyllus
Plant Type: Annuals or short-lived perennials
Blooming Season: Late spring to mid-summer
Length of Blooming: 3 to 5 weeks
Height: 1 to 5 feet depending on the species
Sunlight: Full sun to light shade
Lupines ideally grow in the wild in some areas of the United States, where they act as a host for endangered butterfly species. Lupine’s wild blossoms come in blue and white hues, while domesticated lupine flowers come in yellow, blue, purple, and pink hues.
Biodiversity doesn’t only revolve around species we consider rare, endangered, and threatened but around every living being, from organisms to humans, plants, and animals. Even your garden can be a hub for multiple living organisms. Read our article to learn about 9 ways to stimulate biodiversity in your yard.
Pros and Cons of Planting Lupines in Your Garden
Before you plant anything in your garden, you have to consider first whether this new addition will benefit you or cause you harm. Here are the pros and cons that you need to know when it comes to planting lupines in your garden.
Pros of Planting Lupines
- Lupines attract pollinators in your gardens, such as bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
- Lupines are deer-resistant.
- Lupines are easy to grow from seeds and will self-sow, which explains their short lifespan.
- Lupines can improve soil fertility, like other members of the pea family.
- Purple is the most common color for lupine flowers, although they also come in blue, yellow, pink, and white.
Cons of Planting Lupines
- Every part of the lupines is toxic when ingested.
- Lupines are difficult to transplant because of their deep taproots that resent being disturbed.
- Lupines wither fast and are short-lived in hot and humid summers.
- Lupines thrive and prefer cool regions with average soil.
3 Things You Need to Know When Planting Lupines
Before planting lupines in your backyard, you need to know a few things. Knowing these necessary ideas is important to ensure the successful growth of lupines in your backyard.
1. Seeds vs. Potted Plants
Lupines are easy to grow, even if you start from seeds. Although, you can also start from dormant bare-roots plants or potted plants. Seeds are often preferred by most cultivars since they are easy to find. If you are planning on buying nursery grown-lupines, make sure you buy them from a trusted nursery. Lupines have fast and deep-growing taproots that can become unnatural if the plants grow weak in their pots for too long.
2. Sun Exposure
Plant lupines in the full sun, especially if you live in a place that experiences cool summers. If you live in a warm climate, provide your lupines with filtered sunlight. If you are growing some in the South, find an area in your garden that provides the best afternoon shade. Although full sun exposure is perfect for some plants to bloom, when growing lupines, you have to compromise. Plant them in partial shade to keep them healthy and happy.
Lupines prefer sandy and loose soil because it doesn’t hinder the growth of their deep taproots. In dense clay soil, loosen the soil by working in compost before planting your lupines. These plants also love slightly acidic conditions. So if your soil contains too much alkaline, lower the level by adding sulfur to it.
If sowing the seed of lupines, sow at a rate of approximately 1 pound per 1,000 feet. If planting mature lupine plants, allow 2 to 3 feet between each plan for larger varieties, and 12 to 18 inches for smaller varieties. As previously mentioned, lupine has long deep taproots and does not spread, except when reseeding.
How to Plant Lupines
Lupine plants thrive in cool and moist environments. They prefer full sun exposure to an adequate amount of shade and average soil. Lupine plants can tolerate and still grow healthily in sandy and dry soil but will not grow in clay soil. Before planting lupine, loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 20 inches using a garden fork or rototiller. The ideal time to plant lupine seeds in your backyard is between September and November.
Planting Lupine from Seeds
If you have decided to plant lupines from seeds, the best time to do so is in the late fall or early winter for they will bloom beautifully in the following spring. You can also sow the seeds during the spring, four to six weeks before the average last frost date. However, if you do so, your lupines will bloom in the late summer.
Lupine seeds have hard outer shells that require to be softened before sowing. To do so, soak the seeds in lukewarm water and leave them overnight to allow the water to easily penetrate the seed coat or scarify them with sandpaper to help them absorb water. Lupine seeds might also be chilled for a week in the refrigerator before you can sow them.
Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep under the loosened topsoil. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate. About 15 to 25 days after planting them, the seedling will sprout. Lupine plants grown from seeds will blossom in their first year. To prolong the blooming period, pinch off or deadhead spent flowers. Apply organic fertilizers monthly to encourage healthy growth.
Planting Lupine from Container-grown
If you have decided to plant lupine starting from container grown-lupines or cuttings, you can plant them in the spring, after the frost danger has passed. Potted-grown lupine plants are ideally perennial cultivars that you can place directly on the ground in the spring.
Allow at least 2 to 3 feet between each plant and loosen the soil to accommodate lupines’ deep tap-roots. Also, use organic matter to amend the planting hole and improve the drainage if necessary. Do not allow organic matter or mulch to touch the crown of the plant and induce rot. Finally, don’t forget to water your lupine plant thoroughly.
Lupine plants effectively make a statement in your backyard garden. You will often see lupines planted in mixed colors and vertically in a cottage garden. Lupines are impressive and beautiful when planted in groups in wildflower gardens or meadows, especially if you allow them to grow freely and naturally.
However, they don’t make a good container plant due to their deep taproots, cone-shaped spiky flowers, which are often used in cut-flower arrangements.
A garden is usually a planned outdoor space with plants and other forms of nature. Spending time in your garden allows your family a chance to work and bond together. However, not all of us have time to spare to manage a garden. If you are busy with everything else that is happening in your life, then you will surely love our tips to making your garden low maintenance.
Care Tips for Your Backyard Lupines
Here are five care tips you must follow to maintain and ensure that your lupines are healthy and happy:
Once you have successfully planted your lupines, keep their soil moist to ensure good root development. Once your lupines have stabilized and are deeply rooted, they can thrive in dry environments and you’ll only need to water them during drought periods. A layer of mulch is ideal to help lock in soil moisture and keep your lupine’s roots cool.
Lupines, as previously mentioned, can absorb nitrogen directly from the atmosphere. With such, they can thrive and grow healthily without needing more fertilizer since they grow happily in nitrogen-poor soil. One of their best-known qualities is their ability to enrich the soil in which they are planted to flourish for their growth.
To encourage your lupines from flowering more, fertilize them with plant food that is high phosphorus. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer will help with the growth of the lupine foliage and seemingly promote flowering.
3. Pest and Disease Control
Lupines have two great enemies, aphids and mildew. These two can wreak havoc on your lupine garden by inflicting a lot of damages and can disfigure the leaves and inhibit the blossoms of your lupine plants.
Luckily, there are many ways to prevent aphids and mildew infestations, such as using horticultural oils, which effectively counterattack aphids and prevent powdery mildew from launching in your lupines. If this option can’t resolve the issue, the last thing you can do is prune the affected parts of your plants back to the earth to encourage new and healthy growth.
4. Pruning and Deadheading
Deadheading is one of the gardening methods that entourages a second set of blooms by removing spent flowers. Cut the lupine flowers back to the earth once the foliage turns yellow at the end of the season.
Lupines don’t like being transplanted and divided. Thus, if you want to propagate them, the ideal way is to seed them. Avoid deadheading and pruning to encourage lupine from self-sowing and allow flowers to form seed pods.
You can propagate perennials plants in the spring using the cuttings taken from the shoots at the base of the plant. Although, note that lupine cultivars from homegrown seeds might not be the same as the original color and will sometimes revert to a shade of violet.
Now that you know how to plant colorful and vibrant lupines, add this plant to an area where they can be visible and act as the background for your other full-sun perennial flowers. On an important note, a flowering ground cover planted beneath your lupines helps preserve their roots and will allow them to benefit from the nitrogen in the soil.
Lupines are indeed eye-catching and attractive perennials. With this article, you are now armed with a guide on how to grow them successfully in your backyard. Keep in mind the proper ways of planting lupines and the best care tips to ensure the healthy growth of your plants.