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Tuesday - May 17, 2011

From: Maitland, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Growing bluebonnets from seed in Maitland FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Can I grow bluebonnets from seed in Maitland? The soil is quite sandy, and I do have sunny, dry places to grow them. Are there any special requirements necessary away from their native habitat?


There are a number of different members of the Lupinus genus that are referred to as bluebonnets, and six of them are all considered the state flower of Texas. However, the one usually thought of as the classic is Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet). This plant is endemic to Texas, meaning that it grows natively nowhere else, and even in Texas, mostly only grows in the Edwards Plateau and the blackland prairies. According to this USDA Plant Profile map, one county in north central Florida has had some planted bluebonnets come up; we have no idea if they are still there, nor is this close to Orange County FL, on the east central Florida coast. We are asked this same question so often (for many other states and even countries), we hope you will forgive us for quoting from a previous answer:

"Sorry, you can lead a seed to dirt, but you cannot make it grow. Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) is endemic to Texas, although there has been some success in growing it in Florida, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Inside every seed there are millennia of genetic coding that say "grow here, not there."

There are so many different factors that cause this that some have probably not been identified yet. From our Native Plant Database on the Texas bluebonnet, here are the Growing Conditions:

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Limestone/chalky, Sandy Loam, Limestone-based, Calcareous, Sandy, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche"

In terms of special requirements away from their native habitat; frankly, they really don't grow out of their native habitat. Your soils are probably pretty acidic, which bluebonnets don't like, and changing the soil pH is usually successful only temporarily, at best.

Please read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants question on growing bluebonnets in the Southeast (Georgia in this case). And how about pollination? Read this article from Texas Bee Watchers, which lists the bees that pollinate the bluebonnet. Do you think you have those bees in Florida? We don't know, we don't keep track of bees, they are kind of moody and don't like to be counted, but they are also very particular about what they pollinate.

There are 54 species of Lupinus native to North America, of which 5 are native to Florida. We took a look at some of these to see what the chances were you could grow one of them. Lupinus perennis (Sundial lupine) is native to the Florida Panhandle, according to this USDA Plant profile map. Lupinus villosus (Lady lupine) comes a little closer to Orange County, but still does not grow on the eastern coast of Florida.

The reason that we recommend only plants native to a specific area be planted in that area is that so much in resources-chemical fertilizers, money to buy seeds, water and labor-can be expended on a non-native that probably will not thrive.


From the Image Gallery

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Sundial lupine
Lupinus perennis

Lady lupine
Lupinus villosus

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