|PLANTING BLUEBONNET SEED II
BY JOAN HOWIE
Although spring is many months away, homeowners who want togrow bluebonnets from seed and enjoy their blooms in March need to plant them now. Other wildflowers can be sown later in the fall. Bluebonnets, cold season annuals germinate in late summer and early fall, develop a good root system and form rosettes that will shoot up flowering stems when the weather warms. Some fallen seeds from this years bluebonnets may already be sprouting.
Only 20 of 100 untreated seeds c an be expected to germinate and they do so over a 30 day period but once a bed is established it will reseed for years. Rather than sowing wild seeds in a new area, however it is better to use commercial bluebonnet seed. These have been chemically treated, removing inhibitors in the seed coat that prevent it from taking up water to begin germination. Treated seeds germinate in 10 days rather than the months necessary for wild seeds to sprout and more of them will produce. An alternative is to use bluebonnet transplants when available.
Seeds should be sown in full sun in a well-drained area and barely covered with soil. They will not need fertilizer and should have water only when soil is dry to a depth of 1 inch. Seedlings should be protected from pill bugs and damping off fungi. Masses of one color provide maximum impact, rather than using a variety of colors. They can be interplanted with pansies or other annuals for winter long color. Longer blooming species will also help hide faded brown bluebonnet stalks as their seeds dry and produce next years seeds. Later blooming species also help hide faded brown bluebonnet stalks as their pods dry and reseed.
All varieties of bluebonnets are considered the Texas state flower. These include Lupinus subcarnosus which grows in deep sandy soil rather than clay and is known as the sandy land bluebonnet; Lupinus texensis, the most famous and easiest to cultivate, found in central Texas; Lupinus havardii, Big Bend or Chisos bluebonnet, which can top out at 3 feet tall; tiny Lupinus concinnus called the annual lupine, and the perennial Lupinus plattensis, also called dune or plains bluebonnet.
Color varieties of these wildflowers have been developed from natural mutants found growing among patches of blue. Carefully harvested and replanted in areas with no danger of cross-pollination, large numbers of seed and plants of various shades were propagated. Many large fields of bluebonnets will show a few white flowers. Pink ones located in only 4 areas of the state but with lots of care and attention to cultural practices, they multiplied and are now easy to find for sale. Other variants have been developed from the pink ones, including lavender “Barbara Bush” and the Aggie maroon. (rumor has it that a UT orange shade is in the works.) Whatever color is chosen, to have a garden full of the Texas state flower in the spring, plant seeds in August.