En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - September 13, 2006

From: Austin , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: More on bluebonnets
Answered by: Dick Davis

QUESTION:

I have a small field (about 1/2 acre) where I would like to grow bluebonnets and perhaps some other wildflowers for added color. Do bluebonnets need to be fertilized? Should I water them? How can I maintain the field of bluebonnets so that they come back every year?

ANSWER:


Lupinus texensis
It is generally best to not apply fertilizer when planting bluebonnets. Bluebonnets can extract their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, and when you put fertilizers into the soil, they don't seem to like it. Maybe it changes the microflora in the soil so they don't like it as much, maybe it just confuses them. It also encourages weed growth. Your special bluebonnet areas should be sort of set aside for bluebonnets, rather than trying to produce floral displays throughout the year. It is best to concentrate just on bluebonnets and short statured warm season grasses, like buffalo grass and some of the gramas. You can mix in some early bloomers like huisache daisy and/or Indian paintbrush for color contrast, but after all this early season color is gone, just let it be grass. You can still have lots of other space devoted to Indian blankets, coreopsis, Engelmann's daisy, etc., for later season color.

Don't overwater them. At the Wildflower Center we water them maybe an inch/month while it is still warm, then just leave them alone after it gets cool, unless it is an extremely dry winter (like the 2005-2006 winter) They may need slightly more to help them get established in very rocky or sandy soils, but after they get established, they will have very deep roots to tide them through.

Bluebonnets like tortured, overgrazed spots, so it would be good to open up the soil surface some, by really "gronching" the area before planting. They don't like it turfy. They love burned areas, but it is often more practical to just really abuse the area with a weedeater. Bluebonnet displays often grow better over a period of several years of establishment in one spot, but that spot often is not overly attractive during other seasons. After several seasons of bluebonnets on a given spot, they will have had ample opportunity to establish beneficial soil bacteria and build up the seed bank in the soil for future generations. One problem of trying to maintain bluebonnets in a small area is that the seeds shoot out of the pods to surprising distances, so it may be necessary to harvest the seed pods when they first turn dry and brown, to replant the seeds in your chosen spot.

The biggest problem for bluebonnets and many other wildflowers often is cool season exotic grasses, like Japanese brome, rescue grass, or the ryes. Keep an eye out for new grass seedlings coming up in the bluebonnet areas during the winter or very early spring. Since Fall and Winter are the crucial time for germination and establishment of most of our Texas wildflowers, eliminating or reducing competition from these cool season grasses can be very important for establishing and maintaining wildflower displays.

 

More Wildflowers Questions

Seeding south Florida native wildflower meadow
March 06, 2008 - Information about seeding a south Florida native wildflower meadow. Have only found information north Florida.
view the full question and answer

Bluebonnets and wildflowers for Nashville TN
March 10, 2009 - I have several packets individually of both bluebonnets and of wildflowers, and want to plant them on 2 hills that we have around our home. We live near Nashville, and aren't even sure if the bluebo...
view the full question and answer

Winter preparation for wildflowers
October 22, 2009 - My first attempt at my wild flower garden is successful. I planted a box of perennial seeds, so I don't know what type of plants I actually have. My concern is what to do once the temperature drop...
view the full question and answer

Native plant bibliography
March 20, 2004 - What book do you recommend for identifying the native plants and wildflowers of my region?
view the full question and answer

Native, non-invasive plant seeds for each region in U.S.
June 09, 2006 - I need to identify a wildflower from each region that we can package in custom packaging to use as giveaways at our member zoos and aquariums. Our project this year is called Conservation Made Simple...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center