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Lupines, a member of the sweet pea family, grow in attractive spikes and naturalize quickly. Classic blue lupines grow wild in some parts of the United States, and domesticated versions of this wildflower grow in pinks, oranges, yellows and reds. The name lupine comes from the Latin word meaning wolf, due to the mistaken belief these plants deplete the soil of nutrients.
In addition to their ability to naturalize quickly and wonderful support of local wildlife, lupines are actually known to aid in fixing nitrogen in the soil. In this way, the lupine is similar to a pea or another legume. By adding nitrogen to the soil, lupines benefit their neighboring perennials and your garden overall. Lupines can also handle rough soil and low water conditions, and even manage to deter deer. These beautiful flowers are workhorses in the garden, and marvelous attractors for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Where to plant Lupines:
Lupines should be planted in full-sun and well-draining soil. Thanks to their tall height, these flowers are excellent choices for planting in the back of the border, or for naturalizing in attractive swaths of tall flowers. Consider mixing lupines with other wildflowers, like echinacea or even lavender, for a natural look. Or, mix these late-spring bloomers among irises or roses for a truly eclectic style.
When do Lupines Bloom?
In much of the United States, lupines can be grown as perennials, and they typically kick off the summer by bridging that time period from late spring to after the summer solstice. These wildflowers will bloom alongside iris, delphinium, daisies and dahlias. Lupines are among the first of the summertime "wildflowers" to bloom.
How to Plant Lupines?
Lupines can be planted in spring or fall, but we see them perform best when planted in spring. Our lupines are shipped just in time to plant - whether purchased in spring or fall.
Plant your lupines similarly to your other potted perennials-carefully break up the roots and plant in well-tilled soil mixed with compost. Remember to work the soil to at least a foot deep before planting, and place your lupines in the hole at the depth to which they were potted. Water the plants in well, and continue to water throughout the growing season.
Here are a few tips for your lupines' first growing season:
For the first season, focus on keeping your soil evenly moist. After the plants are established, you'll only need to water during times of serious drought. Lupines are fairly drought resistant, but pampering them in the first year will pay off.
Because lupines are nitrogen-fixing plants, they don't require fertilization. However, they won't be harmed by the fertilization of nearby plants, so fertilize their neighbors as needed.
While too much fertilizer isn't a great thing, a soil acidifier can be helpful in keeping your soil's pH low.
Do Lupines Need Full Sun?
Lupines are true sun perennials, and generally need full sun to perform at their best. Aim to ensure that your lupines receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight every day. Having enough sun will help your lupines reach their best height, and produce the maximum number of blooms.
How Long do Lupines Bloom?
Thanks to their hearty nature in the face of sun, deer, and even rocky soil, lupines have a nice, long bloom time. If given optimal care, lupines will bloom from late spring all the way to late summer. Lupines are usually perennial or biennial, so you'll get multiple years' worth of blooms from these plants.
Do Deer Eat Lupines?
Lupines are toxic to most mammals. Thus, deer typically leave them alone-toxicity is, after all, an excellent defense mechanism. While deer may graze lupines in the fall as winter closes in, they typically avoid these plants unless there's little else available. Lupines are considered deer-resistant perennials.
How to Harvest Lupine Seeds?
Lupines are frequently propagated using seeds, and it's easy to see why-these plants have lovely seed pods that practically beg to be plucked. Wait until late summer before plucking seed pods from your lupines, allowing them to dry out and become more stiff. Once the pods are dried and you can hear the seeds rattling in them and will know it is time to 'harvest' them. Because the outer coating of the seeds is so hard, we recommend soaking your lupine seeds overnight before planting in fall.
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