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Lupine

Tips for growing striking, drought-tolerant lupine from seeds and cuttings.

Growing LupineHome flower gardeners are growing lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) from seed for ​its ​​breathtaking​ ​array of colors. Striking ​plants have stiff, erect flower spikes — 1 to 4 feet tall — that emerge from horizontal foliage. ​Flowers are similar to those of peas or sweet peas and grow in large, ​densely packed​ racemes​ of deep blue, purple, yellow, pink or white.​

A short-lived perennial, lupine is found from California to British Columbia. Plants do not require a lot of care. Give them a sunny spot, ample water and well-drained soil and you’ll be hearing oohs and aahs for seasons to come. Lupines make ​a terrific addition to borders, xeric (water conserving) gardens, or scattered throughout native landscapes.

Depending on the variety and your zone, lupine flowers will bloom from early spring through the first weeks of July. As a result, we recommend planting them with some late blooming, summertime favorites — zinnia, rudbeckia, daisies — to keep the color going well into fall. Plants are deer-resistant ​and ​their flowers attract many important pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Fun fact: ​Similar to peas, lupine are nitrogen-fixing and can improve ​your soil’s fertility over time.​​

Transform your home into a private oasis with beautiful heirloom flowers. Planting instructions are included with each seed packet and shipping is FREE!​

Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Lupine

  1. Purple color is most common, but blue, yellow, pink and white varieties are also available
  2. Prefers cooler regions with average soil
  3. Plant in full sun to light shade; loosen soil for long taproot to grow
  4. Plant chilled seed in spring, otherwise fall planting is preferred for seed and plants
  5. Transplanting is not recommended
  6. Blooms early to mid summer

Sunlight: Full sun to light shade
Maturity: Days to bloom varies depending on fall or spring planting; blooms July-August
Height: 1 to 4 feet, depending on variety
Spacing: 12 inches

Site Preparation

Easy to grow, lupine thrives in cool, moist locations. It prefers full sun to light shade and average soils, but will tolerate sandy, dry soil. Plants develop long taproots, so loosen the soil to a depth of 12-20 inches using a rototiller or garden fork. They will not grow in clay.

How to Plant

Lupine can be grown from seeds, cuttings or divisions. If growing from seed, germination is greatly increased by a 7-day cold treatment (see our article on Seed Stratification). Place seeds and slightly damp paper towels in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator. Another method would be to soak them in warm water for a 24-hour period. Treated seeds can be directly sown into a seedbed in spring or summer until August 1st. The best time to plant untreated lupine seeds outdoors is between September-November.

Plants grown from seed will bloom their first year. Pinch off spent flowers to prolong the blooming period. Apply an organic fertilizer once per month to promote healthy plants and large blooms.

Tip: For dramatic results, mass lupines in borders or scatter them throughout the cottage garden. Visit our Flower Gardening 101 article for more information.

To grow from cuttings, take a stem down to the trunk, including a bit of its “footprint” connection to the trunk. Set in moist, very well-drained, gritty sand or other propagation medium. Keep covered during the propagation period except for several minutes each day to air and and allow the plant to adjust.

Start cuttings in larger pots that can be transplanted into the outdoors, pot and all, so as not to disturb the roots.

Do NOT transplant as the long tap root is delicate, and if damaged, the plant will fail.

Insect & Disease Problems

Lupine does not have many pest problems associated with it. Occasionally, plants will become infested with aphids. If found, take the following common sense, least-toxic approach to pest control:

  • Pinch or prune off heavily infested leaves or other plant parts.
  • Commercially available beneficial insects, like ladybugs, are important natural predators of the pest.
  • Apply organic Diatomaceous Earth (DE) for lasting protection. Containing NO toxic poisons, DE works by scoring an insect’s outer layer as it crawls over the fine powder.
  • A short-lived natural pesticide, Safer® Soap works fast on heavy infestations.
  • Do not over fertilize – aphids like plants with high nitrogen levels and soft new growth.

Seed Saving Instructions

Ripe seed pods naturally explode. When the pods begin to turn yellow and the seeds “rattle” inside, they are ripe. Place in a screen box where they can burst freely and simply pick up the seed. Read more about saving seeds here.

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50 Responses to “Lupine”

  1. Jo Ann Bell on July 27th, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    I’ve had a great deal of trouble with mildew or mold looking stuff on my lupine, which eventually covers the leaves and makes the plant look pretty sad. I’ve cut it all down and treated it, but it eventually always comes back the next year. The plant looks healthy when it first returns, but as the season goes on, it gets this “crud” on it again…any suggestions???

    Thanks, jb

    • E. Vinje on July 27th, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

      JB – Take a look at our Pest Problem Solver on this blog. We have an entire page on identifying common plant diseases that should help. If you don’t see what you’re after… please let us know and we’ll dig a little deeper.

  2. Jennifer on December 28th, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I tried the 7-day old treatment and it works! However, only about 1/3 of the seeds germinated. I have put those which didn’t start back in the fridge and will watch them for a few days.

  3. Anonymous on May 21st, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    IS THE LUPINE BIANNUAL? I HAVE NOT SEEN ANY OF MY OLDER PLANTS RETURN THIS SEASON, AS A YEAR OLD PLANT IS GROWING VIGOROUSLY.

    • Nikki on August 2nd, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      I was told they are tri-annual. So I plan to seed each year for 3 years and see what happens.

  4. Diane May on August 17th, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    Should I cut down lupine after it has gone to seed?

    • Kevin on August 22nd, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      I have a lot of lupins at my cottage in north central Ontario. I never touch them, other than to occasionally take seed pods off to sow them elsewhere on the property. They seem to do well if I do nothing to them, which suits my cottage gardening regime perfectly.

      • Emily on August 13th, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

        Do I take the Lupine seeds that are ripe and just distribute them other places where I want them? Do I cover them w/ soil? And it’s mid-Aug. right now. Can I scatter the seeds now?

        • deb on August 9th, 2016 at 5:55 am #

          Emily – I was just given some lupine pods yesterday and looking for info on what to do with them now that is Aug 9. Did you ever get an answer to your question? I don’t have a lot so don’t want to waste them. I live north of Barrie On – very sandy soil. The bank that I’m going to try them on has some grasses, queen anne’s lace and black eyed susies – do I have to clear a spot to sow the seed?

  5. Oddsoxdi on May 2nd, 2015 at 8:09 am #

    Instead of cold-treating my lupine seeds, I soaked them in warm water for 24 hours. I don’t think I had many germination-fails at all! I have some very happy, healthy baby lupines waiting to be put out now! They wanted to grow! So try the soaking method instead.

  6. Jo on May 15th, 2015 at 9:26 am #

    My lupin seedlings are leggy, should I pinch the tops off?

  7. WL on May 18th, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

    Even though everyone says lupines only last 3 yrs. mine is 5 yr’s. Old and bigger than ever! It has provided 4 or 5 babies over the years, and I have never moved the mother…I live in zone 4 North of Toronto w extremely cold long winters and tons of snow and it comes back without fail in compost rich, light peaty soil that I now know doesn’t need amending so much, it just needs to be light and fluffy. Am stratifying and scarifying a dozen seeds indoors this May in case this is its last yr., and the only one that failed me was in its 2nd yr. when I moved it before I knew they had long taproots and had to be grown in place….I do deadhead immediately after all the side flowers bloom and save the flower on the main stem for seed and sometimes get a few small second blooms even though our summers are only 3 mos. long! But I definitely do not get flowers in the first yr. from plants 8″ or smaller when growing from seed (or that volunteered)…it always takes an extra season perhaps because there isn’t time before its cold again? Will make more of effort to increase my plot of just lupines this yr. to see if they are also drk. Purple like their mum!

    • Martha on November 7th, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      Hi WL, North of Toronto.
      This was my first season growing lupine (read Miss Rumphius a million times to my daughter as a child) and it bloomed heartily. I think I may have cut off the dead blooms/stems too early, but here it is, November, and the foliage is just beginning to die back. Not sure what to do —- mulch it? leave it? will it grow back next spring? should I have let the blooms die to the point of exploding and self-seeding? In the spring, I’d probably mistake the new seedlings for weeds and pull them up! Any advice would be greatly appreciated

  8. teri on May 29th, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    We recently planted our first lupine knowing nothing about it other than I was fascinated with its shape and the beautiful color of the flowers. When we took it out of the container it was very root bound and has flourished in the soil. I just think they are so beautiful and unique

  9. Darlene on May 31st, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    I read this article hoping to find an answer about my lupines. When planted (many years ago, they were white) now I have two shades of pink & was wondering why this happens.
    I have fantastic luck with mine flowering at least twice a summer. I have done nothing correct with them. They are in a clay, hard soil that I loosen a bit on occasion & mulch a bit. They seem to thrive even with the snails & slugs that seem to LOVE them.
    It is the color change i am interested in. Any info is appreciated. Thanks

    • Mandy on June 3rd, 2015 at 8:00 am #

      Hi Darlene,

      The color change probably has something to do with the acidic levels in your soil. Just like with Hydrangeas. :) Look up the info on those and it will probably help you understand this more with the Lupine.

      • Ron Stubbs on May 30th, 2016 at 7:18 am #

        I was always told that purple and sometimes white were the only natural colors and that the reds, yellows, and pinks were hybrids. Mine have always reverted back to purple after a few years.

  10. Donna Allgaier-Lamberti on June 7th, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    I am fortunate to have the perfect sandy, oak savannah soil for native lupines and my sunny, dry zone 5b SW Michigan property. I have been growing native purple lupines here on our homestead for the past 9 years. Each year I add a flat or two that I purchase from a native plant nursery and my lupines reseed themselves liberally as well. I do nothing with my lupines once planted and established with the exception of occasionally watering them. If I catch the seedpods at the right time I shake seeds around my property but mostly the seeds blow in the winds and its fun to see where they pop up next. It is my understanding from the grower that they do not last forever, but they do reseed themselves so if you have the right soil, site and conditions and a pH between 6.8 and 7.2 and they will continue on generation after generation. My one tip I can share is DO NOT amend your soil. One established they like harsh, sandy and hot conditions. They are protected in my state as the larval host plant for the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. I feel that I am doing my bit to help beautify my roadway and help the Karner Blue survive.

    • Anonymous on June 21st, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

      I absolutely love your blog!!!!!

  11. Lynn Fitzgerald on June 19th, 2015 at 6:44 am #

    Donna says DO NOT amend soil. I live in North Carolina and we don’t have “soil” we have clay. I would need to dig a big hole, throw the clay away and put real soil in the hole. Will that work?

    Thanks

    • Cynthia on July 7th, 2015 at 5:55 am #

      Lynn,

      I just moved to South Carolina and am going to start my perennial beds with Lupine seeds. I laugh when my fiance calls the soil here clay, its sandy. So i purchased potting soil and some peat moss to mix with it. Hopefully this works…..First my 24 hour warm water treatment. Good luck!!

      Cynthia

      • Lisa Steele on June 22nd, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

        I think lupine like cooler climates. I never had any luck growing them in Virginia, but here in Maine, they are EVERYWHERE! growing wild.

    • Sarah Orlowski on May 29th, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

      Our lupines are in fairly clay-ish soil and they are doing just fine, contrary to what they’re supposed to do. We have pink ones as well as blue/white ones. They are both huge & gorgeous.

  12. Moi on July 11th, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Will they ever produce flowers? For the second year now I just have a few small leaves. How many years before they flower?

  13. Marsha Craig on July 13th, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    Anyone have any luck growing lupine as far south as central Florida?

  14. Betg on July 16th, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    I live in the Mojave Desert about 50 miles SSW of Death Valley and I was wondering if domestic lupines would do well here. We do have a wild variety that grows around here.

  15. lewis smith on August 8th, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    I live in Bretagne, France where snails love to eat the stem just below the flower spike; so keep a careful eye on this. I have repaired half eaten stems with a matchstick and masking tape.

  16. WILLIAM JERE on February 20th, 2016 at 6:07 am #

    Where can i find Lupine Sprouting seeds to buy? i am from Malawi Central Africa, i need the seeds urgently

    • John Boumil on July 20th, 2017 at 7:44 am #

      I can mail seed to you. I live in Massachusetts,USA

  17. Amanda Marsh on April 14th, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    This is the second year my lupines have not had a single boom. Lots of pretty greenery, but not one single bloom, anyone have any suggestions as to why?

    • Kathleen D King on April 19th, 2016 at 5:05 am #

      My lupines don’t bloom until later in the year, usually June or so. This is the third year and I have had blooms every year here in SE Michigan. I do nothing special to them either. Good luck!

  18. Betty on May 5th, 2016 at 7:58 am #

    I live in the PA area and just planted some Lupines in my front garden, They were growing well and starting to bloom when something eat just the tops off of the plants. Do you know what animal would do that? I checked around the garden and didn’t see any tracks

    • Karl on May 6th, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

      I’ve had problems with deer eating my lupines in the past.

      • Lisa Steele on June 22nd, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

        I’m surprised about that because they’re toxic to most animals.

    • Bob on June 25th, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

      I have had numerous problems trying to grow Lupines. I think mostly I see leaves being eaten off each morning. I suspect rabbits, does anyone else have this problem as well as a solution? Ps: I have already tried rabbit/deer repellent to no avail.

  19. J. Lefcourte on June 1st, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    We’re having great luck with our Lupines here in Reno, NV where Summer temps reach 100 deg. They’re in their second year, planted in very clayey soil and look terrific with Desert Primrose filling in the spaces between them and some other tall plants.

    • Wagnit on June 7th, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

      Are you growing the common large variety or the native spider lupine?

    • Judy J Peck on May 29th, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

      I just learned that the seeds are edible, especially the white ones. I am waiting for the snow to get off of Peavine before I sow may perennial blue and annual white and yellows, I am in the Golden Valley area of Rene, and can hardly wait for these to produce.

      • Lisa Steele on June 22nd, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

        I would double check that information because everything I”ve read says that the plant is extremely toxic to humans and many types of animals.

  20. Jeanne Lawson on July 13th, 2016 at 6:15 am #

    What do you think about starting lupine seeds in pots and then transplanting into soil?

  21. Barb on July 25th, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    I collected lots of lupin seeds from the dried pods. Now I am wondering what do I do with the seeds until I am ready to plant in the fall? Can someone give me a bit of advice? Right now I have them on a piece of paper towel on a counter. I don’t want to loose the seeds. Thanks!

  22. David on August 1st, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    I started seeds in peat pots in July under grow light in a cool basement. I plan to put them out in the fall. Hope to establish them through the winter.

  23. Susan on October 24th, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    I was just give some lupine seedings and it is late October. Can I plant these outside now? If not is there anything special I should do to keep them inside for the winter to plant in spring. Seedings are about 2 months old.

  24. Ruplekha on November 10th, 2016 at 10:43 pm #

    My Lupine seeds are not germinating…its almost 3-4 weeks now. is there any way to enhance germinating now?

  25. marcela on May 5th, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    This is the 3rd yr for my 1st Russ. Lupine –planted from a nursery start — 1st yr. just leaves – 2nd year about 12 blooms — this year — 40 blooms and still
    producing . Last yr. I planted a 6-pac. 1 died , 2 are blooming, 1 is just leaves, but vigorous, and 1 is tiny, pale color leaves – maybe a throwback to some earlier
    form. Inland No. California summers get HOT !! but they are doing well despite last year’s drought conditions and 2016 winter rain. I didn’t know they would grow so large… and they are taking up a lot of space in vegetable beds — I might just cut them back — as I read that transplanting isn’t the way to go.
    They are absolutely GORGEOUS !!

  26. Sandra Dalton on May 5th, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    My Lupines were beautiful for 3 years, even growing in the grass of the lawn. After frost last year, when they were all dried, I had them mowed. Now this Spring there is not a sign of them. What happened?

  27. Zee on May 17th, 2017 at 3:39 am #

    I want to plant this plant in my backyard here in Malaysia… Can it survive well here?

  28. Carol on October 1st, 2017 at 8:24 am #

    Will be my first time for planting seeds here in Nova Scotia, as they grow every where and are so pretty when driving to see fields of them in all there glory and multiple of colors. Going to plant them so driving in our driveway will have all this beauty of color.

  29. Peter on April 10th, 2018 at 11:14 pm #

    I have lupine growing up next to my home wall. Can the roots damage the wall/foundation? Thank you

  30. Maryam Azhar on April 16th, 2018 at 3:35 pm #

    After I read your blog, I am growing concern about my Lupin flowers. Because I recently plant Lupin seed in plant seedling tray; it grow into health (about 1 inches tall, with 4/5 cloves out.) You mention that it cannot be repot. I don’t know what I suppose to do w it. Any advice? Please let me know. I have a lot of lupin plants grow about a inches and it look so happy.

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