En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
5 ratings

Tuesday - September 04, 2007

From: Dumfries, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: Grow bluebonnets in Virginia
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I want to ATTEMPT to grow some Texas Bluebonnets in VA because I am homesick and both our kids are back in Austin. That said, the site says " it may be necessary to inoculate the soil with a rhizobium such as Nitragin-type Lupinus Special 4". Any idea where I might purchase Nitragin-type Lupinus Special 4?

ANSWER:

First we would like to thank you for bringing an error to our attention! It is in fact, NOT necessary to inoculate the soil to successfully grow bluebonnets. Rhizobium does help bluebonnets and other, mostly leguminous, plants grow in poor, nitrogen-deficient soils. Given sufficient nigtrogen fertilizer and grown in reasonably high pH soil, bluebonnets will grow and flower just fine. Also, bluebonnet seeds often come pre-inoculated from the seed seller.

Your biggest concern will be making your soil basic enough for your bluebonnets. That is, you will need to substantially raise the pH of the almost certainly acid soil there in Virginia to grow them successfully. Fortunately for you, raising the pH is as simple as thoroughly mixing limestone with the soil. Limestone will be readily available in your area at local garden centers. If the soil is clayey, adding some compost and coarse sand will also help.

Bluebonnets have extraordinarily hard seed coats. This arid-area adaptation insures that some seeds will not germinate the first fall, but lie dormant in the soil for two, three or more years. This germination strategy helps to ensure the survival of the species through the vagaries of Texas drought and flood years. For you, hard seed coats mean that you very unlikely to get 100% germination of your seeds this fall. This is a good thing. Chances are, some of your seeds will germinate and produce bluebonnet flowers for you next spring. Chances are also good that the best crop of bluebonnets from this years' sowing will be enjoyed the following year.

Normally we encourage folks to find, cultivate and appreciate the flora that is local to them wherever they may be. In fact, we do encourage you to do that, too. However, we also know how homesick we would be if we were so far from Texas. There is almost no chance of Texas bluebonnet escaping from cultivation and becoming invasive in Virginia -- the conditions are simple too foreign for that to happen. However, if you do find volunteer bluebonnet seedlings coming up in and around your garden, but outside your special bluebonnet soil, please remove them. The very last thing we want is to introduce any Texas natives to some other area's native flora!

Finally, we removed the reference to "Nitragin-type Lupinus Special 4" from our website. That was apparently a commercial product that may no longer be available.

 

More Propagation Questions

Lookink for bulbs of German Blue Bells in Weatherford, TX.
July 09, 2012 - I am searching for a plant that is called "German Blue Bells". They are tubular as seed. Like tiny iris only bands around the tubular. The flower looks like a morning glory with an off set bloom....
view the full question and answer

Growing Chile Pequin Indoors
December 09, 2015 - About a year ago I visited your page and as a result I planted 8 seeds in spring 2015 from a large Chile Pequin plant that came up wild in my Cedar Park home near Austin. The last harvest was late su...
view the full question and answer

Cold moist stratification of Echinacea purpurea
July 23, 2007 - I was looking at your info on Purple Coneflowers and it says: "Seed Treatment: Cold-moist stratification for two months improves germination." What is Cold-moist stratification? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Transplanting suckers on Cenizo in Austin
June 21, 2010 - Our large silverado sage has produced some volunteers, which are now about 1 ft - 1-1/2 ft tall. Is it possible to transplant them or has the taproot grown too deep for transplanting? Also, will the ...
view the full question and answer

Standing Cypress Plants in San Antonio, TX
June 26, 2013 - I purchased seeds for standing cypress 2 years ago and this spring they look beautiful. What is the best way to harvest the seeds? Also, will the current plants come back next spring or will I have to...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center