Lupine

This short-lived perennial is grown for its bold, bicolor blooms.

Lupine Overview

Description Spring-blooming lupines display showy spikes of densely packed blossoms on stiff stems along with green foliage covered in fine gray hair. In their native habitats, lupines cover hillsides with vibrant displays. They do not perform well as ornamentals in home-garden settings, however. Instead of growing wild lupines in home gardens, look for hybrids that thrive as cool-summer perennials, understanding that hot summer temperatures will stop them in their tracks. 
Genus Name Lupinus
Common Name Lupine
Plant Type Annual, Perennial
Light Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 1 feet
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Colorful Combinations

Colorful lupine perennials strut their stuff on erect spires that can reach 4 feet tall. In some varieties, the flowers are bicolor blossoms that pair a set of white petals with a second set in a primary color, creating a layered effect. The foliage is also worth a look. Small pleated leaflets grow in rings around a central point, forming a cuplike shape. The fine gray hairs cause water to bead up in the center of the leaves to create a naturally beautiful visual.

Lupine Care Must-Knows

While lupine perennials are easy to start from seed, these short-lived perennials are challenging to over-winter when not grown in their ideal settings. Lupines thrive in regions with cool summers—such as the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, northern United States, southern Canada, and New England. However, the deep South's heat and humidity (Zones 7-9) compromise lupines' well-being; grow these flowers as annuals in this area.

For the best flower production and the sturdiest stems, plants should be grown in full sun and rich, fertile, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. Make sure lupines get some light afternoon shade in warmer climates to cool things down. You can also reduce the temperature in root zones by applying mulch around the plant. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage further blooming. Lupines are susceptible to powdery mildew; good air circulation helps prevent this problem.

If you live in suitable zones and have the right environment for lupines in your garden, you may reap the benefits of self-seeding. Remember, if the parent plants are hybrids, the seedlings will not come true, and you're likely to end up with various flower colors. Rooting side-shoot cuttings in late spring to early summer is more likely to be successful in terms of propagating identical new plants.

More Varieties of Lupine

Russell lupine

russell lupine cone blooms
Peter Krumhardt

Lupinus Russell Hybrids make bushy mounds of attractive fingered foliage. Dramatic foot-long spikes of large pea flowers rise above the clumps. Individual flowers are often bicolored and come in an amazing range of hues. Zones 4-8

Lupine Companion Plants

Centaurea

multiple centaurea blooms
Peter Krumhardt

A great source of blue flowers, mountain bluet and perennial bachelor's button has the easy, casual growth habit of the wildflowers they are. This plant group also includes ornamental knapweeds, which have beautiful yellow blooms. All three types are prolific nectar producers that attract butterflies. They self-seed readily, giving you lots more plants through the years.

After blooming, like many wildflowers, the plants get somewhat weedy looking and benefit from a cutting back by a third to a half to keep them tidy. If they like their growing conditions, they will spread into larger clumps that need to be divided every couple of years.

Iris

white iris blooms
Dean Schoeppner

Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris comes in lots of colors and many heights. All have classic and intricate flowers. The flowers are constructed with three upright "standard" petals and three drooping "fall" petals, which are often different colors. The falls may be "bearded" or not. Some cultivars bloom a second time in late summer. Some species prefer alkaline soil, while others prefer acidic soil.

Jupiter's Beard

jupiters beard blooms

Known as red valerian because of its rosy pink flowers, Jupiter's beard is one of the longest-blooming perennials in the garden, as long as you remove spent flower heads. Deadheading prolongs bloom and prevents self-seeding. Jupiter's beard has escaped from gardens and become a nonnative wildflower in some regions.

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