Lupines grow wild across the United States and Canada and are also one of the most popular flowers in the home garden. Once plants are well established they provide an abundance of colorful, small flowers along a series of narrow spiked blossoms that bloom throughout the late spring and summer.
Lupines are members of the Lupin family, which includes over 500 different species. Most lupines are self-seeding perennials, though a small percentage of species are considered annuals. Plants are best suited to grow wild in locales with mild winters and moderately warm summers.They have a bush habit and will typically grow up to four feet tall. Flower stalks appear in the late spring between May and June. Many gardeners and farmers grow lupine, both for its beauty and ability to add valuable nitrogen to the soil.
The foliage of lupines is green to gray-green. Each leaf has between seven and nine leaflets along a series of stubby branches. Flowers bloom in the late spring and provide an array of dense flowers ranging in size from six to seven inches per stalk. Flowers come in many different colors including blue, pink, purple, yellow and white as well as bi-colored blossoms. At the end of the summer, once the flowers are spent, seed pods will emerge. The pods can be harvested or simply allowed to burst open naturally, providing self-seeding for future seasons.
Common Diseases and Problems
Weed control is an essential component of growing lupines, as they can expeditiously overtake and crowd young plants while simultaneously harboring pests and unwanted insects. Disease control is another important factor, though it can normally be well controlled in backyard gardens by maintaining a moderate soil pH.
Refrain from planting lupines in lower lying regions because such areas are apt to encounter exaggerated water buildup. Excessive water can lead to such problems as root rot. Other common enemies of lupine plants include Rhizoctonia and Fusarium fungi.
Starting from Seed
Purchase seeds at a plant nursery or garden center, or seeds can simply be saved from an existing plant (non-hybrid) plant at the end of the season once the pods emerge. The seed case is quite hard, and as a result many gardeners soak the seeds in warm water or stratify them to encourage faster germination. Once the seeds are planted in potting mix they will emerge within three to four weeks and be ready to transplant into the garden by the time they are a little over two months old.
In the Home Garden
For top results, many gardeners opt to grow a variety that is native to their region. Find information on what type of lupine best suits your locale at your local agricultural extension office. Place lupine plants in full sun and plant them in coarse, well-drained soil. High alkaline and clay soils are not appropriate for this plant. Once established, plants are quite hearty, though they are sensitive in their earlier stages and do not like to have their roots disturbed.