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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Jump On The Lupine Express

Harold Litwiler (Flickr)
Creative Commons

I think my fascination with lupines started with Miss Rumphius in that classic children's story. This native wildflower grows 2- to 3-feet-tall in a wide variety of flower colors.

The wild lupine species features purple flowers and is hardy to zone 4. The Russell Hybrids is a well-known variety featuring colors such as blue, purple, white, red, and yellow.

While we often see wild lupines growing in fields and meadows, you can plant them in gardens too. This legume is low-maintenance and long-lived, if it's growing on well-drained soil. Avoid clay soils, if possible, or plant on compost amended raised beds. 

For a small lupine patch, purchase transplants from nurseries in spring. In a meadow or field, start with lupine seed. Start seed now indoors and transplant seedlings out in a month -- or spread seed on tilled up land after all danger of frost has passed.

To enhance germination, soak the seed in warm water overnight before planting. Keep the soil well-watered until seeds germinate and get established. Once established, lupines have taproots and are drought tolerant.

Perennial lupines will naturalize, creating swaths of color in spring. In the garden, deadhead spent flowers to tidy up the plant and reduce self-sowing.

Watch for powdery mildew on the leaves. To lessen mildew damage space plants further apart and spray the organic Serenade fungicide on plants.

Control lupine aphids by spraying these insects off the plants with a jet of water from a hose. With a little work, like Miss Rumphius, you too, can make the world a more beautiful place by planting lupines.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about spring bulbs. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

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