A perennial flower that we grow on the farm, lupines add dimension to arrangements with their conical shape and beautiful colors. We are always on the lookout for low-maintenance perennial flowers, and lupines deliver.
Growing up in Texas, you cannot go through a spring without the obligatory picture in a field of wild Texas bluebonnets. The bluebonnet, which is a part of the lupine family, is protected and cannot be picked in Texas.
Thankfully, we can harvest all the lupines here in NC. We started some of the lupines we have from seed. They have taken a year to mature and bear flowers. Others were gifted to us by our friends at Felicity Floral Farm. They have a field that has filled with lupine over the years as it was planted with wildflowers.
"In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather's knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, 'When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live by the sea.'
'That is all very well, little Alice,' said her grandfather, 'but there is a third thing you must do.'
'What is that?' asked Alice. 'You must do something to make the world more beautiful,' said her grandfather. (Miss Rumphius)"
One of the reasons that I wanted to plant lupines comes from a book that I read to my children. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is the story of a woman who decides to make her small community beautiful by spreading lupine seeds along pathways, down in the hollows, and along stone walls. At this point in her life, she has traveled and lived by the sea, but she was getting old and struggled with sickness. She figured out that, by walking these paths and spreading these seeds, she was bringing beauty to the world.
Since reading that book years ago, I knew that I wanted to grow lupines. This beautiful flower has reminded me of our call to bring beauty to our communities.
Care & Maintenance
Lupines are a large genus of flowering plants that are native to North America. Many lupines are crossed with the native North American lupine and bred for color, of which there are a wide variety. They are part of the pea family and, like peas, have nitrogen-fixing capabilities for the soil. They are good for your soil!
Lupines should be planted in sunny locations with rich, well-draining soil. They do not like soil that holds too much moisture as it can lead to root rot for their long taproot. They should receive regular watering. Fertilizer is not necessary but can be used. Too much fertilizer will lead to an abundance of leaves and not a lot of flowers. Keep an eye out for aphids, powdery mildew, and brown spot fungus. Destroy any plants that develop brown spots.
Harvest in the early morning with clean snips and a bucket of cool water. Make a cut far down the stem, close to the base. If storing flowers in refrigeration, wrap the flowers in paper to ensure that they continue to stand straight, instead of bending.
Regularly deadhead flowers that you do not harvest to help the plant continue to produce flowers. Leave flowers on the plant until spring if you want it to reseed itself.
Other things to consider
Lupines are deer resistant but are also poisonous to animals. The flowers are not edible, but the seeds are.
Making bouquets for customers filled with beautiful flowers is one way I strive to bring beauty to my community. Lupines are a part of that and a flower that I look forward to seeing each spring.
This post is part of a year-long series on flowers and plants that we love and grow on the farm. Check out other flowers that we love.