The perennial plant lupine fits right at home in our cottage style gardens here in New Jersey. Lupine come in an assortment of colors from blue, yellow, white and sometimes red. Of all the colors lupine come in I prefer the brilliant blue lupine flower color.
I am always sure to harvest lupine seeds mid summer, so I can strategically plant them in more locations on our farmstead. Lupine is a perennial plant that does great here in zone 6A and will grow happily in colder zones even down to zone 3. I like growing Lupine in mass in my perennial beds and they make a great addition to any garden. It is not hard to find Lupine growing wild in many parts of North America.
Learn when the best time is to easily harvest and store your own seeds so you can grow Lupine in your own garden.
Why Grow Perennial Lupine?
Not only are lupine flowers beautiful in late spring but they attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden. Native lupines are part of the pea family, and can fix nitrogen enriching the surrounding soil. This improves the quality of the soil for the other plants in your garden beds!
American native, big leaf lupine or Lupinus polyphyllus plants are easy to grow. Lupine have long taproots making them very drought tolerant, so you don’t have to be out there all summer watering them in the heat. Once Lupine are established they are a very easy plant to care for.
When do lupine bloom?
My Lupine start blooming late May to early June and will continue to bloom through early summer. Bloom time may differ slightly depending on what zone you are in. New plants that i have germinated usually do not bloom the first year, but bloom the next year as long the conditions are right.
Waiting till the following year can be a drag but the I’m telling you it is worth the wait!
When do I harvest the seeds?
Always wait until the seeds are fully mature before harvesting. You can tell they are ready when the seed heads are dry and brown. If the hairy pea pod is still green you need to wait because the seeds have not yet matured and will not germinate. It is also important to get harvesting before the lupin seeds drop. In my area the right time to harvest is late July to early August. I have had success harvesting up until late summer.
It’s a good idea to harvest wild lupine during a dry sunny day. You want to keep the seed as dry as possible so they don’t rot when you store them. Try to not harvest when it is raining for this reason.
How do i harvest the seeds?
Instead of cracking open the seed heads right away for storage I use my pruners to cut off the entire stalk holding many lupine seed pods. I place the stalks into a paper bag and later will squeeze the seed pods breaking them open revealing the black to dark brown round seeds. if you have ever shucked peas the process is very similar.
Which seed heads do i harvest?
When i see an above average lupine flower in my garden i am always sure to mark that flower with a piece of twine or ribbon. I want to save seeds that have the best genetics possible. I try not to harvest seed from small flowers, or from unhealthy looking plants.
How do I store the seeds once I harvest them?
The best way I have found to keep your seeds is in a paper bag or paper envelope. I always label and date the container I keep seed in. I then keep the seed in a cool dark area of my basement. A dark cabinet or closet will also work fine.
Will Lupine reseed them selves?
Yes, as the lupine seed pods dry the seeds naturally drop from the existing plant or even sometimes shoot out of the pods. The lupine seeds have a tough protective coat on them that protects the seed through the winter and delays the germination process from occurring until early spring.
This process is called stratification. You can emulate this process by leaving your harvested seeds in the fridge for at least 30 days and soaking them overnight before planting.
How to Grow Lupine?
Lupine needs full sun and well-drained soil to do its best. Although lupine can grow in poor soil you don’t want to pick a shady or boggy area. The Lupines will just not thrive. Like when planting all perennial plants i throw a couple shovel fulls of compost around the planting area. As long as you have full sun, good drainage, and living soil you will get a healthy plant.
Im sure you can find lupine plants at your local garden center in the early spring, but it’s not hard and much more cost effective to grow from seed. The first lupine I grew were from seed harvested from wild lupine I found growing at a local park.
When is the best time to sow lupine seeds?
The easiest method I have found is to sow lupine seeds in the fall. This will allow the seeds to go through the natural stratification process over the winter so they can germinate. Lupine seeds have a tough seed coat, so they need to go through a cold wet period to germinate. You will see the lupine plants start to germinate and grow the next spring.
I have also had luck potting up my lupine seeds and planting seedlings around my property during the growing season. For a great way to do this follow these steps to ensure good germination rates.
How to start lupine seeds indoors
- Place lupine seeds on damp paper towels and put in ziplock baggie
- Place baggie with seeds in refrigerator for 30 days
- Take them out of fridge and leave them in the bag on top of your fridge.
- Check them daily to seed if the seeds have germinated
- Once they have germinated plant them up with seed starting mix in pots or soil blocks. See how I make soil blocks here .
- Keep them under grow lights or in a very sunny window.
- Once they get there first set of true leaves and they have rooted out (Aprox. 4-8 weeks) transplant them outside.
Don’t expect lupine flowers the first year. The first year comes with lots of leaves followed by a big show the next spring. Always aim to put your transplants out in spring or early fall. It can be to stressful on young seedling to be put out in the summer heat.
Another option is to buy seeds online or at your local garden center. A business that I always have success with is Johnny’s Select Seeds. The seeds companies will stratify your seeds for you so they are ready to go. Soak the seeds the day before you plant. Direct sow the seeds as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring or start inside 4-8 weeks before planning on planting outside. Lupine roots are sensitive, so if you are starting indoors don’t wait too long before planting outside.
Common Problems with Lupine
If you choose a wet shady location for your lupine, fungal disease is unavoidable. Powdery mildew is a common disease lupine can get, but if you choose a sunny location with good drainage your lupine will be happy and will reward you with a beautiful show!