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Mr. Smarty Plants - Growing Texas Bluebonnets in Colorado

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Thursday - February 12, 2009

From: Longmont, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Growing Texas Bluebonnets in Colorado
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I bought bluebonnet seeds from your wildflower center last August when visited Austin. Being a Texas native, I want to enjoy bluebonnets here in Colorado. When do I plant my seeds outdoors? In the ground or in a container? Do I start them inside first? Thank you!

ANSWER:

Your question is one we frequently receive and it's gratifying to know that Texans abiding for a time in other parts of the world miss and appreciate our beloved state flower.  Unfortunately, your desire goes right to the heart of our mission and sorely wounds it!  Please don't feel bad, though; we know your intentions are noble and they are completely understandable.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's mission is based on encouraging the use and appreciation of locally native plant species.  Since Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) is not native to Colorado we would fail in our mission if we didn't bring this issue to your attention.  However, we will try to help as best we can.

If you wish to grow Texas bluebonnet in Colorado we would highly recommend sowing your seeds in containers.  Lupinus texensis is a winter annual.  That is, it is a plant that germinates in the fall, forms a rosette during the winter months and then flowers in the spring.  Colorado winters are probably much too harsh to successfully grow Texas bluebonnets  as a garden plants.

In Texas, nature sows the seeds of Lupinus texensis in May or early June, about 30 to 45 days after flowering. Texas bluebonnet seedcoats are extremely hard and are, at first, impermeable to water.  After a few months of settling into the soil, the seedcoats soften and the seeds germinate and begin to grow.  People, by nature, like to do things their own way, so they usually wait until fall, soak their bluebonnet seeds in water overnight and sow the next day.  Lightly scratching the seeds into the soil will help to ensure good contact between the seeds and the soil.  Do not sow your Texas bluebonnet seeds too deep.

Bluebonnets grow well in flower pots and other containers.  They respond well to added nitrogen after the plant rosettes are established.  You can sow your bluebonnet seeds in containers any time from May until October.  However, the young, developing plants will need winter cold protection and plenty of direct sunlight to perfom well.

Alternatively, we would encourage you to try growing some of your Colorado lupines.  Among the many species native there are: Lupinus argenteus (silvery lupine), Lupinus bakeri ssp. amplus (Baker's lupine), Lupinus caespitosus (stemless dwarf lupine), Lupinus caudatus (tailcup lupine), Lupinus plattensis (Nebraska lupine), Lupinus pusillus (rusty lupine), Lupinus sericeus (silky lupine) and Lupinus wyethii (Wyeth's lupine).

Finally, we recommend taking some time to read some of the How-to articles in NPIN, including a few specifically about growing Texas bluebonnets.

 

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