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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - July 12, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Propagation, Wildflowers
Title: Bluebonnets in Hampton VA?
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I gave my mom Blue Bonnet seeds for her yard in Hampton VA. She is on a mission to have no lawn and loves flowers. The seeds say to plant in Texas August-November. But, when should she plant them in Hampton VA? And should she sprout them inside first?

ANSWER:

   That’s a really nice present for your mother.  Bluebonnets normally sprout in the fall to early winter and stay small through the winter but ready to really shoot up as soon as soon as it’s securely spring.  Just because there are harsher winters in VA, it would probably be best to go ahead and sprout them inside in an area that’s still quite chill. Central Texas normally has just a few days at or below freezing, so that’s what they are acclimated to.  It would be a real good idea to carefully read the “How-to” article that is on the Wildflower Center website.

   That said, I don’t hold a lot of hope for bluebonnets doing very well at your mothers place at Hampton VA.  That’s way out of the Bluebonnets normal range.  They are adapted to our harsh rocky limestone soil and to the climate we have here.  Part of that adaptation is the really hard seeds mentioned in the “how-to” article – only a few of them will germinate each year, and also the partnership with nitrogen fixing bacteria they need to prosper.   Here are a couple other Mr Smarty Plants answers to similar questions around the country:
Will maroon and Texas Bluebonnets prosper in Richland MO?
Will a gift of bluebonnet seeds grow in Massachusetts?

 

   May I suggest some good alternatives that will do well in Hampton VA?   We have lists of plants that are native to each state and to many ecological regions.  This is the collection that is native to Virginia.  By clicking “Herb” as the General Appearance and then “Narrow your Search” – You will have a great selection of wildflowers that are nearly guaranteed to prosper in your mother’s lawn as it turns to a Wildflower Garden. [You may want to select for the amount of sun and how wet the soil is also.]   33 possibilities showed up when I did the first selection, some nice flowers are:

Amsonia tabernaemontana (Eastern bluestar)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Coreopsis tinctoria (Plains coreopsis)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower) 

Gaillardia pulchella (Firewheel) 

Lupinus perennis (Sundial lupine)

   All of these, by the way, also are present in Central Texas except for Lupinus perennis (Sundial lupine), which is a close relative to the bluebonnet which is native to Virginia.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern bluestar
Amsonia tabernaemontana

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Plains coreopsis
Coreopsis tinctoria

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Indian blanket
Gaillardia pulchella

Sundial lupine
Lupinus perennis

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