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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 - April 25, 2009

From: McHenry, IL
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Transplants, Wildflowers
Title: Bluebonnets in pots in New Caney, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My mother in New Caney (Texas), would like to plant Bluebonnets in some lovely terra cotta containers on her porch (and will hopefully mail me some dried pressings of my beloved state flower). Other than putting Rhizobium on the seedlings before sowing (does it matter how much she puts on the seeds), is there any particular potting soil type she should use? Anything she should add to the soil, like sand or any particular plant food?

ANSWER:

We would like you and/or your mother to read two of our How-To Articles, Container Gardens with Native Plants and How to Grow Bluebonnets. These both have very good, very complete instructions. Because a commercial potting soil will already have nutrients in it, you don't need to add fertilizer. These plants are used to coming up and blooming without fertilizer, special watering or any maintenance. With all the tender loving care your mother is giving them, they should flourish.

Since we get asked this sort of question A LOT, we'll save some time by quoting from a previous answer, which also refers you to the same How-To Article, but summarizes the process. This is discussing moving bluebonnets from a planter to the soil, but also explains the timing and process of the seeds being distributed.

Bluebonnets  Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet)  are described as winter annuals; they germinate in the fall, form rosettes and overwinter, then flower in the spring. The plants that you have are just about at the peak of their flowering, so transplanting at this point would probably be counter productive as they could suffer transplant shock. However,you might just move the planter to the area where you want the bluebonnets to grow before the seedpods mature.  When mature, your bluebonnet legumes will burst open, slinging the seeds quite some distance in a seed-dispersal strategy known as explosive dehiscence.  Many plants employ this method of seed dispersal.  If you cannot move the planter, you may want to enclose it somehow (not with plastic, which would cook the plants) to capture the catapulting seeds.  You can also pull them, roots and all, from the planter just as the seedpods are turning brown and put them in closed paper grocery bags.  You'll be able to hear them popping inside the bag for days or weeks.  When they're finished popping, remove the seeds from the bottom of the bag and compost the plants and paper bags.  The seeds can then be planted wherever you would like to plant them either right away or in the fall following the instructions in our How-to article.

Another good source of information is The Texas Bluebonnet by J. Andrews. See Bibliography.

 


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

 

 

 

 

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