How to Grow Bluebonnets


Have you ever grown your own bluebonnets in Texas? If you have traveled to see a field of spring bluebonnets, then you know they are beautiful. A photo in a field of Texas bluebonnets is classic. You can actually grow your own bluebonnets in Texas.

Is it hard to grow bluebonnets?

They can be a bit finicky to grow. Providing ideal growing conditions and understanding their life cycle will help get bluebonnets established. Texas bluebonnets grow best in soils that are alkaline, moderate in fertility and well drained. Picture where they grow in the wild and you know they need full, direct sunlight, with eight to ten hours daily being ideal.

When to plant bluebonnet seeds in Texas?

Bluebonnet seeds are best planted in October in most of Texas. Can seeds be planted earlier or later? Probably. I’ve found bluebonnet seedlings in August and know of successful plantings done in December. Weather is a factor that influences the time of germination.

Bluebonnets are annuals, meaning they go from seed to flower to seed in one year. The seeds germinate in the fall, grow through the winter then bloom in spring, usually in March to April in Texas.

After flowering, plants form seed pods. Bluebonnets are legumes, nitrogen fixing plants, so the seeds develop in small bean pods. They mature from green to brown and when ripe the pods twist open, scattering seeds in all directions. If you want to establish bluebonnets, leave the plants in place through the entire process of maturing and reseeding.

How to grow bluebonnets from seeds?

Texas bluebonnets develop hard coated seeds. The rocky soil of the Texas Hill country wears down that coating so that the seeds germinate. That process can take a year or two. For planting in home gardens, purchase seeds that are scarified – treated to break the outer hard seed coat. If you have collected seeds, rub them with sandpaper or nick each seed. One of the best methods is first freeze the seeds, then pour boiling water over them. Let them sit at room temperature for a few hours and they are ready to plant.

How to plant bluebonnet seeds?

Prepare the planting site by removing weeds and lightly raking the soil. Expanded shale can be applied to the soil to improve drainage. Seeds of bluebonnets should be sown directly on the soil surface, then gently pressed or rolled in to ensure good soil to seed contact. Water thoroughly and seeds will germinate. The plants will grow through the fall into winter and bloom when temperatures warm in spring.

For a meadow planting, do not till the soil. Instead, rake the surface to a depth of about 1 inch. Moisten the surface and spread half of the seed over the area and then in the opposite direction, spread the remaining half. Gently press the seeds into the soil and keep soil moist for four weeks.

Growing tip for bluebonnets

Legumes like bluebonnets grow happiest with Rhizobium, a beneficial soil bacteria. When this bacterium is present in soil, plant roots have small nodules. If you don’t know if your soil has this bacterium, an extra step when planting bluebonnet seeds is to inoculate the seeds with Rhizobium powder. Simply drop damp seeds into the powder just before planting.

Seed sources

There are a number of good sources for Texas bluebonnet seeds: Wildseed Farm, Botanical Interests, Renee’s Garden, Native American Seed and this family-owned source.

Is it legal to pick bluebonnets?

Actually, it is legal, but use discretion to leave some flowers to mature and ensure future spring crops. Also, respect land owner’s rights because bluebonnets are often planted intentionally at the entrance to or along fence lines of rural properties. When taking roadside photos use caution to pull off highways in safe locations. In fields of bluebonnets, always watch for fire ants and snakes.

Facts about bluebonnets

Six different native bluebonnets are the official state flower. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, they are Lupinus havardii (Big Bend bluebonnet), Lupinus perennis (Sundial lupine), Lupinus plattensis (Nebraska lupine), Lupinus subcarnosus (Texas bluebonnet), Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), and Lupinus concinnus (Bajada lupine). In 1901, the Texas Legislature approved Lupinus subcarnosus as the official state flower. Then in 1971 the other five species of bluebonnets were added and any species that may be discovered.

Primarily, two main species, L. subcarnosus and texensis, are enjoyed by Texans and thousands of tourists from all across the nation who come to see bluebonnet flowers in the spring.

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