The sight of wild lupines growing along highways can be a breathtaking moment. A friend visiting Prince Edward Island last summer saw lupines growing in an outstanding mass of color, which made a lasting impression — so much so that she purchased lupine seeds for her own garden. She followed the instructions carefully and is anxiously waiting for the seeds to germinate.
Lupine plants have been used to reclaim or restore disturbed areas.
Several steps must be taken before the sowing of the seeds.
u Lupine seeds need chilling. The packet of seeds should be placed in the refrigerator for about 48 hours.
u The outer surface of the seed is very hard. To help germination, scratch the outer surface with sandpaper or gently nick it with a sharp knife.
u Place the seeds in moist newspaper or paper towel, roll up the paper and place the roll in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature. It can remain in the bag for about 24
hours. Some folks find at the end of the 24-hour period that some of the seeds have started to sprout. Seeds left too long in the plastic bag may rot.
u Prepare your favorite soil (mine is soilless mix). Place the slightly moist mix in individual six-packs or pots. Sow seeds and cover slightly. Set pots or packs in bright light or a sunny area. Be aware that direct sunlight may cook the seeds. The best temperature is between 65 and 70 degrees. Germination time varies, two weeks or longer.
u When seedlings develop their first true leaves, they are ready to transplant.
u When weather permits, harden plants off before planting outdoors.
When preparing the soil outdoors, loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches as lupine plants have a long tap root.
After planting, set a soaker hose near the plants to keep the soil moist without getting water on the plants.
Mulch plants to discourage weeds.
As flowers fade, cut the spike down to encourage the formation of new flowers. Any leaves that turn yellow should be removed.
Apply a balanced fertilizer low in nitrogen once a month.
Lupines have a sturdy spike with beautiful flowers closely spaced. Its many colors make this flower a great addition to the perennial bed. Some have solid colors while others are bi-colored. Lupine plants range from 36 to 42 inches in height. Read packet variety for exact size. Because of the height of the plants, they do best in the back of the flower bed.
Many years ago I started lupine seeds early enough so that they bloomed the first year. The variety I planted had bi-colored flowers: cream and pink, cream and blue, and cream and purple. Lupines self-seed and can be found in surprising locations in the garden. As the flowers fade, the pods will dry and burst open if not removed. The second or third year when the plants bloomed they were all cream and pink. Since lupines are noted to be short-lived perennials I found that they did slowly disappear despite their propensity to self-sow. The wild lupines growing along the highways and in meadows don’t seem to have that problem.
The insect most attracted to lupines is the aphid. These pests seem to appear overnight. Some folks have successfully removed them with a spray of water from the hose and some use an insecticide soap to get rid of them. Check with local garden centers for the best way to eliminate them. If the infestation is not too bad and you don’t mind, the aphids can be removed by running your fingers over the area to crush them.
June Fuerderer is horticultural chairman of the Old Homestead Garden Club.