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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - May 03, 2010

From: Reynoldsburg, OH
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Can Texas bluebonnets grow in Reynoldsburg Ohio?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am a transplanted Texan now living in Central Ohio. I am tired of having to accept only pictures of the bluebonnets growing along the highways in Texas now and want to know if the weather is suitable in Central Ohio for seeding my yard with Bluebonnets. I see other species of lupines doing well..

ANSWER:

We feel your pain, but we're betting we can't do anything about it.

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. 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.

In Central Ohio, you are in USDA Hardiness Zones 5a to 5b, which means that your average annual minimum temperatures are -20 to -10 deg. F. Since the bluebonnet is a winter annual, it will be trying to put out its rosettes during your coldest weather in January. Somehow, we don't think that's going to work.  

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 Ohio. 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 Ohio, but we always consider that.

So, let's talk about other species of lupinus which, as you say, grow in Ohio. We know it won't be the same, but it will be some consolation. And, guess what? Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine), which is native to Ohio, is also one of the six members of the Lupinus genus considered to be official Texas bluebonnets. Not only that, it's a perennial which you can plant in the Spring, and it will come up both from seeds and roots in the future. And it looks a whole lot like Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), too. Although this USDA Plant Profile only shows it growing in northern Ohio, we think it's worth a try in your location. Mr. Smarty Plants is very glad to have made this discovery, and we hope you enjoy your bluebonnets.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Lupinus perennis

Lupinus perennis

Lupinus perennis

Lupinus perennis

 

 

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