Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Monday - July 06, 2009

From: Natick, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Will a gift of bluebonnet seeds grow in Massachusetts?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I recently received a gift of bluebonnet seeds and would like to know if they are suitable to grow in Massachusetts. We live in Zone 5. If so, would they be considered an annual due to our hard winters? Thanks in advance!

ANSWER:

That was a kind thought to give you some bluebonnet seeds, but probably not practical. Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) is endemic to Texas, but some are grown through cultivation in Florida, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. They thrive on our alkaline soils, low moisture, lots of sun and sometimes very thin soil coating over limestone. You ask if they would be an annual because of your hard winters; they ARE an annual, period. In Central Texas, where we are located, they begin to show rosettes around Christmas, freshly sprouted from seeds sown either by the natural process of the mature seed pods basically exploding in early summer, or by gardeners in the fall. They bloom from late February to early April, according to the moisture and temperatures. Because of the hard protective coating on the seeds, they sometimes don't germinate for several years, waiting for rain and letting the earth around them wear down that coating. 

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends the propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. Plants growing where they are native will need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. Short of a very protected greenhouse environment, I don't think there is anything that would induce Texas bluebonnets to grow in Massachusetts. Another reason we encourage only native plants is that a plant out of place, with no natural impediments to its development, can become invasive and take over natural habitat. That seems hardly likely for bluebonnets in Massachusetts, but we always consider that.

We realize you would like to show your appreciation for the gift by planting the seeds, and there is certainly nothing to stop you from doing that. We would suggest spring, after the ground thaws, and just see what happens. Not to be too discouraging, but we're betting nothing happens. This is a very thoroughly acclimated native plant that likes living rough. The soils, moisture and cool summers of Massachusetts probably would not suit it at all.

If you would like to raise some lupines anyway, we found, of 54 species of the genus Lupinus native to North America, there are exactly two native to Massachusetts:

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine) - perennial, blooms blue, purple May and June, acidic, dry, sandy soils

Lupinus polyphyllus (bigleaf lupine) - perennial, blooms pink, blue, purple in May, part shade, acidic soil

Most of the other lupines seems to be native to states in the Northwest. 


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Lupinus perennis

Lupinus polyphyllus

 

 

 

More Wildflowers Questions

Greenhouse bluebonnets for July wedding from Denver CO
August 19, 2013 - Would it possible for my daughter's florist to get bluebonnets for her late July wedding? Are they propagated in greenhouses?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Rohelís saxifrage
May 11, 2005 - Hi, can you help? Do you know what is a plant named: Rohelís saxifrage? "Bulgaria - Cenral Balkan National Park - Kozya Stena (Chamois Wall) Reserve was established on December 22, 1987. With an a...
view the full question and answer

Adding Wildflowers to Corpus Christi
May 20, 2012 - I have a dry sandy yard, full sun in Corpus Christi with lot's of stickers mostly, want to transform to wildflowers. When should I plant, how should I prepare soil, should I dig out stickers? Which w...
view the full question and answer

Overseeding native wildflower seeds as opposed to herbicides
August 10, 2006 - Greetings from Alabama, We would like to "roundup" approx 2 A and plant some wildflower (s) that would TAKE OVER. We have 20 A and over half is in mixed woods. Pine, oak, sweetgum, and ???. Do y...
view the full question and answer

Herbicide use in bluebonnet field in Blanco, TX
April 10, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have the best of both worlds and the worst of both worlds. Iíve been throwing bluebonnet seeds for 6 years on our property near Blanco, and when it rains, as it has this year...
view the full question and answer

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