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Mr. Smarty Plants - More on bluebonnets

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Tuesday - January 09, 2007

From: London, Other
Region: Select Region
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: More on bluebonnets
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

My wife has recently contacted and met relatives from Texas (her father was a war baby born in the 1940's). Her new found Aunt Sarah has kindly given me some Bluebonnet seeds to plant "a corner of Texas in England" please could you advise me as to how I should raise these in England.

ANSWER:

We do not recommend the introduction of exotic species. To the contrary, we encourage people everywhere to discover and explore the beauty and usefulness of plants native to their own patch of earth. One of the reasons for discouraging the introduction of exotic species is the potential - often proven - of the exotics' escape and invasion in the new ecosystem. With that warning stated, we will admit that there is virtually no chance that Texas Bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis will escape from cultivation and run amok in Great Britain.

You may be able to grow Texas Bluebonnet in London, but success is by no means guaranteed. Texas Bluebonnet is a winter annual, meaning that its seeds germinate in the fall, form basal rosettes of foliage during the winter and flowers in the spring - March and April in Texas. It requires alkaline soil with pH above 7. Your winter fog and high humidity may provide the ideal conditions for fungal diseases to attack the young, developing plant during that time. Once established, Lupinus texensis does not require supplemental water or plant food.

It is too late to plant your bluebonnet seeds this year, but they often remain viable for several years. Prior to sowing your seeds, amend the garden soil in the planting location with lime and some coarse sand. Sow them early next fall, barely covering them with soil. You can increase germination by soaking the seeds in water overnight before sowing. Some seeds are likely to germinate in subsequent years. Try to select a location with bright, direct light and the best air circulation possible. Finally, bluebonnets depend on the presence of a soil-borne, beneficial fungus, mycorrhiza, to aid it in the uptake of soil nutrients. Chances are, your seeds were inoculated with this fungus by the seed company. However, you might consider contacting them to be sure. If the seeds have not been treated, ask them if they can send you some mycorrhiza (similar to a packet of yeast) and you can easily do it yourself.
 

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