Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
6 ratings

Tuesday - September 04, 2007

From: Dumfries, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: Grow bluebonnets in Virginia
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I want to ATTEMPT to grow some Texas Bluebonnets in VA because I am homesick and both our kids are back in Austin. That said, the site says " it may be necessary to inoculate the soil with a rhizobium such as Nitragin-type Lupinus Special 4". Any idea where I might purchase Nitragin-type Lupinus Special 4?

ANSWER:

First we would like to thank you for bringing an error to our attention! It is in fact, NOT necessary to inoculate the soil to successfully grow bluebonnets. Rhizobium does help bluebonnets and other, mostly leguminous, plants grow in poor, nitrogen-deficient soils. Given sufficient nigtrogen fertilizer and grown in reasonably high pH soil, bluebonnets will grow and flower just fine. Also, bluebonnet seeds often come pre-inoculated from the seed seller.

Your biggest concern will be making your soil basic enough for your bluebonnets. That is, you will need to substantially raise the pH of the almost certainly acid soil there in Virginia to grow them successfully. Fortunately for you, raising the pH is as simple as thoroughly mixing limestone with the soil. Limestone will be readily available in your area at local garden centers. If the soil is clayey, adding some compost and coarse sand will also help.

Bluebonnets have extraordinarily hard seed coats. This arid-area adaptation insures that some seeds will not germinate the first fall, but lie dormant in the soil for two, three or more years. This germination strategy helps to ensure the survival of the species through the vagaries of Texas drought and flood years. For you, hard seed coats mean that you very unlikely to get 100% germination of your seeds this fall. This is a good thing. Chances are, some of your seeds will germinate and produce bluebonnet flowers for you next spring. Chances are also good that the best crop of bluebonnets from this years' sowing will be enjoyed the following year.

Normally we encourage folks to find, cultivate and appreciate the flora that is local to them wherever they may be. In fact, we do encourage you to do that, too. However, we also know how homesick we would be if we were so far from Texas. There is almost no chance of Texas bluebonnet escaping from cultivation and becoming invasive in Virginia -- the conditions are simple too foreign for that to happen. However, if you do find volunteer bluebonnet seedlings coming up in and around your garden, but outside your special bluebonnet soil, please remove them. The very last thing we want is to introduce any Texas natives to some other area's native flora!

Finally, we removed the reference to "Nitragin-type Lupinus Special 4" from our website. That was apparently a commercial product that may no longer be available.

 

More Seeds and Seeding Questions

Help with Habiturf from Bertram TX
March 24, 2014 - I am a resident of Bertram..about 45 min northwest of Austin. I have 1.33 acres of land with my home on it. My front pasture is pretty nice native grass but my backyard is full of weeds. I'm guessing...
view the full question and answer

Can poisonous seed of wild plum be safely removed after steaming from Seymour IA
June 20, 2013 - I read on a related questions that you said the pit/seeds of all wild plums are poisonous. My question is this, can I juice the entire fruit for making jelly without removing the pit first? I have a s...
view the full question and answer

Native grass mix for Bastrop County, TX
February 25, 2014 - I plan to put in a small lawn on a tract of land near Rosanky, TX in Bastrop County. There are scattered oaks but the yard space will be mostly open. Soil is basically sandy. Is there a good native...
view the full question and answer

Photograph of seedling or pigeon berry (Rivina humilis) seedling
January 13, 2009 - Where can I find a photograph of a pigeon berry seedling?
view the full question and answer

Annual ryegrass and Habiturf from Austin
October 31, 2013 - We've decided to put Habiturf in our freshly cleared back yard that was overgrown with sticky burs and crabgrass, but now that it is fall, would you recommend putting in a cover crop of annual ryegra...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.