How to Save Lupine Seeds
In the world of Ralph Lauren, all Pea-family plant seedlings grow up to be lupines. Decked with tall, slender flower spikes in stylish shades of purple, blue, magenta, yellow, pink and white, lupines add haute-couture flair to spring and summer gardens in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, depending on variety.
Wildflower lupine species (Lupinus spp.) typically struggle in cultivation. Much better choices for home gardens in USDA zones 4 through 6 are the Russell hybrid cultivars (Lupinus polyphyllus 'Russell Hybrids').
Because lupines rarely survive more than four years, many gardeners collect and save the seeds of their favorite varieties for future planting. The key to success lies in timing the harvest before the seedpods burst and cast their contents to the winds.
All wild and some hybrid lupines come true from seed, meaning that the seedlings inherit all the characteristics of the parent plants. Other hybrids, however, often set seeds with traits from much earlier ancestors. You may or may not like the plants they produce.
Some lupine species have been classified as invasive in different areas. Don't collect and grow their seeds unless you're committed to containing their spread.
A lupine's faded flowers give way to hairy, green cigar-shaped seedpods, each with several seeds. When the pod casings turn greyish green and their dark-brown seeds are visible when held up to the light, it's time to harvest. If you're saving seeds from more than one lupine variety, label the bags.
Instead of collecting individual pods, cut the entire stalks from the plants and place them in closed paper bags.
If you can't check the pods regularly, wrap them in tulle or pieces of cut-up panty hose. When they burst open, the material traps the seeds.
To harvest the stems, use clean, sharp stem cutters disinfected in rubbing alcohol between cuts so they don't spread disease.
Place the bags in a warm, dry area and check them periodically. When the pods are black and crack easily -- usually within a month -- remove the ripe seeds and put them in labeled paper envelopes for storage.
Putting a silica-gel or other desiccant packet in each envelope protects the seeds from moisture-related mold.
Seal the envelopes in airtight jars before storing them in a cool, dark place until you're ready to plant them. An unheated potting shed, garage or cellar is a good choice.
Lupine seeds contain several toxic compounds. They should be stored where children and pets aren't likely to find and swallow them.
Passionate for travel and the well-written word, Judy Wolfe is a professional writer with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Cal Poly Pomona and a certificate in advanced floral design. Her thousands of published articles cover topics from travel and gardening to pet care and technology.