Growing Lupines: Tips at a Glance
With more than 200 species of annual and short-lived perennial varieties that bloom in a spectrum of hues and at heights up to five feet, lupines are a well-loved border flower (and L perennis is the only food source for endangered Karner Blue butterfly larvae).
- Type Herbaceous flower
- Lifespan Perennial or annual
- USDA Zones 3 to 10
- Light Sun or some shade
- Soil Well-drained
- When to Plant Spring transplants
- Design Tip Colorful spikes
- Other Uses Butterfly food
- Peak Bloom Early summer
Lupine: A Field Guide
Colorful, spiky lupines grow wild from the coast of Maine (thank you, Miss Rumphius) to Texas (where they were legally renamed “bluebonnets” by an official act of the state legislature in 1901). Also native to Mediterranean regions and Africa, lupines are as graceful as they are theatrical. Just don’t expect these temperamental flowers to be the backbone of a tamed flower border. (Even in optimal growing conditions, they will be short-lived perennials.)
Decades of cross breeding by English horticulturalist George Russell created a rainbow of flower colors to add to the old-fashioned (but best-loved) blue and purple lupine varieties. Pink, yellow, orange, red, white, and two-color cultivars are widely available.
English garden designer Gertrude Jekyll liked her lupines in the kitchen garden and it is worth remembering that these flowers are members of the pea family. Lupines are contented companions to spinach, squash, and cucumbers.