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
7 ratings

Friday - April 30, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Best of Smarty, Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: How and when to harvest bluebonnets.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

A previous answer mentioned harvesting bluebonnet seeds by pulling up the whole plant when the seed pods turn brown. Two clarifications - when do the seed pods turn brown as these plants are hard to find with no flowers so need to know how long I have to remember where they are before being able to harvest. Also, do I need to pull the whole plant as suggested or can just the pods be harvested. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) seeds ripen in Central Texas between mid-May and mid-June. 

It's usually pretty hard to miss seeing bluebonnets that are going to seed since the most often rise above most of the surrounding vegetation and they make the area where they're growing rather messy-looking and unkempt.  In some cases, later-flowering plants like Coreopsis and Indian Blanket can obscure them.

Many people pull their bluebonnet plants as they are yellowing or turning brown and hang them upside down to dry in a place where the falling seeds (ejected, actually) can be gathered.  When the seedpods are fully mature and dry, they split open along a suture and the small, hard seeds are ejected quite some distance - a clever natural strategy for spreading the seed to new areas.

You can pick only the seed pod of your bluebonnets, but you'll want to wait until they are dry before doing so.  By waiting, you run the risk of the seedpods already being empty by the time you're ready to harvest.

If you simply wish to have another bluebonnet display in the same location next year, just let your plants go to seed naturally and mow or otherwise remove the dead plants afterward.  Since bluebonnets form nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots, leaving the roots intact will improve the soil.  Alternatively, you can pull the plants to collect the seeds and later compost the plants to help create a really rich soil amendment.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

More Propagation Questions

Century Plant
April 20, 2013 - I have a century plant that has just begun to bloom. I have a transplanted a few pups, successfully. I am wondering how I am to go about removing the mother plant once it blooms and dies. I'm reading...
view the full question and answer

Problems with chile pequin from Pflugerville TX
July 19, 2012 - Hello there! I have a question about my chile pequin (Capsicum annuum L.) plant. I purchased it last year from the Wildflower Center Fall Plant Sale. It stayed in a pot until three months ago when I p...
view the full question and answer

Growing Big Red Sage from Seed in San Antonio
November 04, 2010 - I harvested some seed this year from my Big Red Salvia (Salvia penstemonoides). I have searched multiple sites looking for information on growing this wonderful salvia but cannot locate any informati...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of woody plants by cuttings in Cairo, NY
May 12, 2009 - I have a tree in my yard and I am not sure what it is, it has these gorgeous pink cluster like flowers on it, my friend loves the tree and wants to know the steps to take a piece of my tree so she can...
view the full question and answer

Controlling agave pups from Galveston, TX
July 26, 2013 - I live in Galveston, Tx.I have several large 5ft tall century plants in my yard and the pups are coming up everywhere..how do I control these??? HELP!!
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