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
9 ratings

Friday - April 30, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Best of Smarty, Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: How and when to harvest bluebonnets.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

A previous answer mentioned harvesting bluebonnet seeds by pulling up the whole plant when the seed pods turn brown. Two clarifications - when do the seed pods turn brown as these plants are hard to find with no flowers so need to know how long I have to remember where they are before being able to harvest. Also, do I need to pull the whole plant as suggested or can just the pods be harvested. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) seeds ripen in Central Texas between mid-May and mid-June. 

It's usually pretty hard to miss seeing bluebonnets that are going to seed since the most often rise above most of the surrounding vegetation and they make the area where they're growing rather messy-looking and unkempt.  In some cases, later-flowering plants like Coreopsis and Indian Blanket can obscure them.

Many people pull their bluebonnet plants as they are yellowing or turning brown and hang them upside down to dry in a place where the falling seeds (ejected, actually) can be gathered.  When the seedpods are fully mature and dry, they split open along a suture and the small, hard seeds are ejected quite some distance - a clever natural strategy for spreading the seed to new areas.

You can pick only the seed pod of your bluebonnets, but you'll want to wait until they are dry before doing so.  By waiting, you run the risk of the seedpods already being empty by the time you're ready to harvest.

If you simply wish to have another bluebonnet display in the same location next year, just let your plants go to seed naturally and mow or otherwise remove the dead plants afterward.  Since bluebonnets form nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots, leaving the roots intact will improve the soil.  Alternatively, you can pull the plants to collect the seeds and later compost the plants to help create a really rich soil amendment.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

More Wildflowers Questions

Yellow Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa
May 09, 2005 - Does entireleaf Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa, come in yellow in the wild? I have Indian paintbrush in the front pasture and noticed last weekend that there were 5 or 6 that were light yellow...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen privacy hedge and drought-resistant garden
July 21, 2008 - I am looking for a hardy evergreen hedge for privacy in Northern Michigan. I have sandy soil. Also am interested in planting a drought garden with mostly sun in same sandy soil.
view the full question and answer

Can you produce hay and bluebonnets on the same field?
March 03, 2010 - Hi - We have a field that produces wild bluebonnets every spring. Is it possible to grow and bail hay in this field and not kill off our bluebonnets? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Texas bluebonnets for Illinois
March 12, 2008 - Thank you Mr. Smarty Plants. I will be closely checking the variety of Texas bluebonnets that I tried to plant. For the record, I did soak them first to loosen the seed shell. I think we probably just...
view the full question and answer

Can I Divide Rudbeckia in July in NC.
July 22, 2009 - How do I transplant Blackeyed Susans so I can add them to other parts of the bed. I started with one and it is crowding out other plants, so I would like to transplant to other parts of the yard.
view the full question and answer

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