Tips for raising natural, water-wise lupin perennials from seeds and cuttings.
A favorite spring-time activity, growing lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) provides flower gardeners with a wide and brilliant array of colors. Plants have stiff, erect flower spikes of 1-4 feet that emerge from horizontal foliage. Flowers are similar to those of peas or sweet peas and grow in large, crowded racemes of deep blue, purple, yellow, pink or white. Found growing wild throughout most of the northern United States. Short-lived perennial.
Easy to grow, lupine thrives in cool, moist locations. It prefers full sun to light shade and average soils, but will tolerate sandy, dry soil. Plants develop long taproots, so loosen the soil to a depth of 12-20 inches using a roto-tiller or garden fork. They will not grow in clay.
Tip: For dramatic results, mass lupines in borders or scatter them throughout the cottage garden (see Flower Gardening 101).
How to Plant:
Lupine can be grown from seeds, cuttings or divisions. If growing from seed, germination is greatly increased by a 7-day cold treatment (see Seed Stratification). Place seeds and slightly damp paper towels in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator. Another method would be to chip seed or soak in warm water for a 24 hour period. Treated seeds can be directly sown into a seedbed in spring or summer until August 1st. Untreated seeds can be sown outdoors September-November.
Plants grown from seed will bloom their first year. Pinch-off spent flowers to prolong the blooming period. Apply an organic fertilizer once per month to promote healthy plants and large blooms.
To grow from cuttings, take a stem down to the trunk, including a bit of its “footprint” connection to the trunk. Set in moist, very well-drained, gritty sand or other propagation medium. Keep covered during the propagation period except for several minutes each day to air and and allow the plant to adjust.
Tip: Start cuttings in larger pots that can be transplanted into the outdoors, pot and all, so as not to disturb the roots.
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Note: Do not transplant as the long tap root is delicate and if damaged, the plant will fail.
Insects and Disease:
Lupine does not have many pest problems associated with it. Occasionally, plants will become infested with aphids. Watch closely and apply insecticidal soap or other organic pest control, if necessary.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Ripe seed pods naturally explode. When the pods begin to turn yellow and the seeds “rattle” inside, they are ripe. Place in a screen box where they can burst freely and simply pick up the seed. Read more about saving seeds here.