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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.

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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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Thursday - November 08, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Lupines annual or perennial in Zone 4b from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Are lupines treated as perennials or annuals in Zone 4b (Northeast) if they are planted in the ground? Will other native species of lupines grow in a region they are not native to? Any recommendations?

ANSWER:

Lupinus  is a large genus, with 54 different species listed in our Native Plant Database. Of these, 18, including the much-loved Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), are annuals, dying back to the ground in the Fall after reseeding. Thirty-six of the genus lupinus are perennial.

Usually the questions to us about lupines concern whether homesick Texans can grow the Texas Bluebonnet somewhere else, like England or Afghanistan. Every plant has a particular set of requirements in terms of climate, rainfall, sunlight and soils to flourish, so, generally speaking, we would recommend sticking with plants native to a specific area, but with so many lupines to choose from, you should be able to find one that will be able to make it wherever you are considering planting it. Since we don't know specifically what state you are thinking of, we will find a state in USDA Hardiness Zone 4b, which includes Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Alaska. Because Hardiness Zones can change in a small distance due to altitude, proximity to large bodies of water, etc., you should probably take a look at the USDA Hardiness Zone map for yourself to locate the specific area involved. For our sample list of lupines for Zones 4b, we will choose Alaska. We happen to know from personal experience that there are lupines growing there that rival the Texas Bluebonnet in appearance and beauty.

To replicate our search for different states, go to our Native Plant Database, search for the genus Lupinus. As mentioned before, this will give you a list of 54 members of that genus native to North America. Using the side bar at the right side of the page, select the state you are interested in, and click on Narrow your search. When we did this on Alaska, this is the list we got:

Lupines growing natively in Alaska:

Lupinus arcticus (Arctic lupine)

Lupinus nootkatensis (Nootka lupine)

Lupinus nootkatensis var. fruticosus (Nootka lupine)

Lupinus polyphyllus (Bigleaf lupine)

Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, soil preferences and duration (annual/perennial). All of the above list are perennials, which stands to reason, because they can retreat into the insulation of the soil and survive to rise again in the Spring.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Nootka lupine
Lupinus nootkatensis

Bigleaf lupine
Lupinus polyphyllus

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