Posted by Aaron Barton on May 16th 2022
A breathtaking late spring perennial, Lupinus (loo-PY-nus) or Lupine (loo-pin), of the legume or pea family, Fabaceae, is a showy bloomer that steals the show as it welcomes the many summer blooms to come. As the name Lupine suggests, their flowers were once believed to deplete all nutrients from the soil like a hunting wolf. However, Lupine actually fix nitrogen from the air into the soil as do all members of the legume family, making them an excellent plant for improving soil health.
Native to areas of North and South America, including Wild Lupine, Lupinus perennis, native right here in Minnesota and identified by its soft blue blooms and compound leaves of 7-11 leaflets, Lupine features unique soft green palmately compound foliage comprised of hairy leaflets radiating from a central petiole. The most commonly sold species, Lupinus polyphyllus, or Bigleaf Lupine, is available in numerous colorful cultivars and has large leaves comprised of 9-14 leaflets.
A favorite of pollinators including hummingbirds, Lupine bloom from late spring through early summer, producing multiple dense, colorful flower spikes upwards of eight inches tall with vibrant sweet pea-like blooms, including the purple-blue blooms of ‘Popsicle Blue,’ the stunning bicolor blue and yellow flowers of ‘Staircase Dark Blue & Yellow,’ and the bright orange flowers of ‘Staircase Orange.’ Regular deadheading can also help to extend bloom times of these deer and rabbit resistant plants well into the summer.
Typically growing 24-36" tall and 18-24" wide, Lupine prefer sharp-draining, sandy soils, thriving in a wide range of soil pH conditions though preferring slightly acidic soil. Lupine prefer full sun conditions though they will tolerate some light shade, thriving with bright morning sun and protection from especially hot late afternoon sun. A noteworthy addition to any cut flower garden, sunny border, or cottage garden, Lupine are sure to liven up the early summer landscape.