En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 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 Seeds and Seeding Questions

Garden planning for wedding in Tallahassee
July 18, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I would love your advice on creating a Wildflower Garden Plan. Earlier this spring in Tallahassee (North Florida). I sowed Wildflowers for the first time to see what would blo...
view the full question and answer

How does Habiturf spread from Walburg TX
May 19, 2014 - How does HabitTurf spread? - by seed only? - when/how often must you let it go to seed to insure a permanent stand?
view the full question and answer

Photograph of seedling or pigeon berry (Rivina humilis) seedling
January 13, 2009 - Where can I find a photograph of a pigeon berry seedling?
view the full question and answer

Wildflower garden for Driftwood, TX
August 20, 2013 - I would like to plant wildflowers in a fairly large field on a slope. The slope is a little rocky and is located in Driftwood, TX. I have been thinking about a mixture of Bluebonnets and Indian Blank...
view the full question and answer

Keeping a Texas Madrone alive from Belton TX
October 01, 2012 - I have found a supplier of a Texas Madrone and have been wanting to grow one ever since our family vacation to Big Bend NP. My question is how do you have success with this tree? Many people say it is...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center