Planting some Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) in our garden may be a pretty bad idea, but I really want to. They’re such beautiful blue flowers, and I love blue flowers.  I’d like to plant them at the north end of the Driveway Border, where they would emerge out of the Hardy Geraniums and Nepetas.

prairie nursery lupine
Photo from prairienursery.com.

Wild Lupine is native, though uncommon, in this part of Illinois. You may know that it is the only host plant for the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. However, it’s probably unlikely that we will see any Karner Blues. Wild Lupine is also  a host plant for Duskywing butterflies. They are more likely to be seen, but they are terribly drab.

wild_lupine1 il wildflower
Photo from Illinoiswildflower.info

To be honest it’s the color more than anything that makes me want this plant. It starts blooming in late spring so I can imagine it contrasting with the nearby Tulips and Celandine Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum).

But they’re not exactly the right plant for the right place because Wild Lupine wants dry, sandy, acidic soil. The soil in this border is loamy with medium moisture (it’s a raised bed). And it’s highly alkaline.

pn lupine 2
Photo from prairienursery.com

But who am I kidding? I’m going to buy some. My recklessness will most likely lead to premature death for several poor, innocent Wild Lupines. On the other hand, I’ve killed several hundred inappropriately placed plants already, what’s a few more? It’s an experiment.

I can’t write about Lupines without including a link to the Monty Python skit about Dennis Moore, the famous Lupine-stealing 18th century highwayman.

Have any of you tried growing Wild Lupine in your gardens? How did it work out, for the Lupines, I mean?

59 Comments on “Thrown for a Lupine”

  1. I threw some seeds into my black dirt garden and they came up. So far so good. We shall see what happens this year. FYI.. the flowers bloom in early spring, a great time to support native bumblebees. They LOVE the flowers so it cant be all bad.

  2. The South Island of New Zealand has the mist amazing swathes of these growing beside ice blue tumbling rivers and snow covered mountains .so amazingly beautiful they are not native but probably were grown to enrich the nitrogen content of the soil.

  3. I have seen Moose eating wild lupines in a ditch up in Maine. I have tried growing them here. They lasted one summer but didn’t return. Maybe they didn’t set seed. I don’t know.
    I had never heard of the Lupine thief. That video of the Lupine thief cracked me up… etc etc.

    • The lupines you’ve seen growing wild in Maine are not native lupines, but imports from the Pacific northwest (same genus, different species), escaped from gardens and spread by well-meaning but misguided flower lovers who seeded them in the wild. These imported lupines are beautiful, but they are also implicated in the loss of the native lupines and of the Karner Blue butterfly that depended on those native lupines.

  4. not the the wild variety, but from the garden center. went poorly, grew one year, dwindled away the next, never back on year three…. But looking at your pics, I might just have had a wild one popping up a few years ago by itself. The colour is a very vibrant light blue, right?

  5. I’m a big fan of Lupines, we have them at the roadside here growing wild in the spring. I’ve never tried growing the wild blue ones, but I do have quite a few named varieties that I’ve grown from seed. They are very easy to start from seed, especially if you soak the seed first. I have very well-draining sandy soil, and the front is very sunny, so they love my garden. One problem I’ve had in the past is that aphids like them, but I’ve decided that if aphids attack and disfigure the flowers, I’m just going to cut the flowers off prematurely.

  6. The blue lupins Lupinus polyphyllus grow wild around here – the soil up on our hill is quite different to down near the river and seems to be slightly acidic. It is good to observe what grows wild and use it in the garden – I planted a couple of them last year, so we‘ll see if they come back or have set seed. 🙂

  7. Lupine cultivars do well here in Quebec (I think they’re largely Rocky Mountain selections/hybrids, although I’m not sure). At Jardins du Metis/Reford Gardens, they have some spectacular meadow plantings of lupines. Tim germinated seeds from there late last spring (they sell seeds in their shop) and planted the ~ 4” tall seedlings last summer in several beds. We’re looking forward to seeing how they do!

    I’ve always liked lupines, too.

  8. That was weird.
    Several lupines are native here. I don’t get tires of them, but am pleased that they grow wild rather than in the landscapes. Some of the shrubby types get rather grungy after a while, but I don’t mind where they are at.

  9. Hello Jason, we’ve grown lots of lupins in the borders but they’re a short-lived perennial in our garden (perhaps because of the heavy wet soil) and so they look good for a few years then just die. They also get heavily infested with aphids (soil too rich) and look unsightly. I’ve had better luck from “Gallery” lupins (which are smaller than the standard ones) and they’re so easy to grow and germinate they might make a re-appearance once more.

  10. The seeds and the leaves look almost exactly like those of our state wildflower: the bluebonnet, or Lupinus texensis . Actually, there are six species of bluebonnets that are collectively named the state flower, since the central Texas or east Texas versions are quite different from those that grow in the Big Bend mountains. Still, they’re all bluebonnets, and all in the lupine family. They can be difficult to get started, too, especially if the soil’s too rich or too wet. And I think I remember that the seeds of our bluebonnets do better if scarified before planting.

    I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen this sort of lupine. They’re quite lovely.

  11. Just have to stick up a little for Duskywings–they are quite beautiful in a subtle way when viewed closely and the light hits their wings. If you look carefully, they are swirls of silver, bronze, and dark purple. Their caterpillars are also very interesting.

  12. Jason, I planted Lupinus perennis in my garden a couple of years ago, and I’m hoping that they will establish well and spread. The native lupines have been extirpated in the wild in Maine (although there are still some wild colonies in the other New England states), and I have exactly the right soil for them. In my wildest fantasies, some of them will escape from my garden back into the wild along the sides of my dirt (really, sand) road.

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