I need help with Lupine seeds

brieninsacFebruary 6, 2012

About a month ago I started some Lupine seeds. I got them from Home Depot and used one of those seed starter kits.

On the package is says to put them in the refrigerator for a day or two before planting and to nick the shell. I was planting some other seeds at the time and forgot to prep the Lupines as instructed.

Anyway, after a week they started sprouting and all looked good. I eventually transplanted them into bigger 2" paper pots for eventual planting. I take them outside everyday so they get some sun (60-65 degrees) and bring them in at night. I'm not letting them get dry either.

After a month of doing this they don't seem to be growing. They're only 2-3" tall and appear healthy, but they're not growing. Meaning while my Zinnias are out growing them by far.

Is this normal for Lupines or is it because I didn't chill and nick the seeds before sowing?

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

The chilling and nicking were to encourage germination. They germinated just fine, so that isn't the problem. Lupines are perennial, while Zinnias are annuals. So, the Lupines my need to develop more complex, deeper root systems than the Zinnias, so they need to be planted out with room to grow under ground.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 5:05PM
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Zinnias, like most annuals, need to complete their life cycle in a single season so they need to develop roots, grow fast, produce foliage and colorful blooms fairly quickly so as to attract pollinators, then produce seeds with the goal of continuing their species.

Lupines & other perennials germinate and develop seed leaves followed by their first "true" leaves that resemble the mature plant's leaves. But they can take the time to develop healthy root systems because they're not up against the calendar like annuals. Many perennials will not bloom the first season when grown from seed because they're putting all their energy into developing strong root systems and plant structure to support their subsequent growth years. Perennial flower production can wait until the plant is mature, strong & healthy. My seed-grown lupines didn't bloom until their second year but the show was well worth the wait.

Another tip about lupines: they do best in lousy soil. The plants in the photos are growing in my neighbor's south foundation bed where I planted them because the soil is nothing more than sand and rocks. The ones I planted in my healthy, sandy garden loam that's rich with worm p**p didn't do anywhere near as well.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Tony G(5a)

oooooooh, I'm getting excited! I planted lupine last year and I think one stalk flowered? 2012 should be the big payoff...I hope!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Cool, thanks for the info everyone. Those Lupines look beautiful. I'll continue to be patient with them. I hope to plant them outside in about a month. I didn't know they won't bloom this season, so I'm kinda bummed.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 12:13PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

Ooooooh---I am jealous!

I have tried for years to grow lupines here--I have the Russell strain mix lupines and they always die. Lady's mantle, Russian sage, coreopsis, peonies, lavenders--you name it, they do fine, but the lupines die every time.

The soil is clayey loam, but in a high spot so it drains about average (well enough for the lavender, at least!).

Maybe I have to do something to make the lupine growing bed more "lousy" so that they will live?!?

Please help--yours look so beautiful!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2012 at 6:34PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Brien, I started several varieties of the Lupine hybrids last year, and mine only produced a small rosette of foliage the first year. It does seem that they devote the first year mostly to root growth. I hope to have some nice blooms this Spring!

Gardenweed, your Lupines are beautiful. I hope mine look like that, they are planted in my "xeric" garden, where the soil is pretty sandy and dry. But you never know, with the vagaries of gardening and the friggin' voles!

This year I'm starting Lupinus perennis from seed, which is the host plant for the Karner blue butterfly. Although I don't think there are any of those butterflies in this state.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 6:01PM
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I tried to dry my lupine seeds last fall and what I have now is an envelope full of fuzzy pussy-willow-like pods. Are these the seeds or are they inside. I know about chilling them, but what is nicking? I want to expand my lupine area and hoped to do it myself. Help!?!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 5:00PM
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I never chill lupine seeds. I've never nicked them either. I use a moist paper towel in an open plastic baggie and put them somewhere warm. On top of my cable box works best. It never gets turned off. After they sprout, I plant them. I use either peat pots or paper cups since they resent root disturbance and I can just score the containers and plant them out. They do grow much faster after they are in the ground.

Gardenweed, those are some beauties, all right. *Sigh* Weather related impatience setting in.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 1:36PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Firstmategardener, lupine seeds should look like little dark beans. They should be clean-looking, hard, and perfectly dry. It sounds like your seeds were not sufficiently dry when you stored them and they have grown mold. If so, the seeds are not viable.

When I collect seed, I dry them in a paper cup or paper lunch bag, for 2-4 weeks before storing. They need good air circulation when drying. Even better when the heat comes on, and the humidity level is very low in the house.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 12:23AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I've been growing wild blue lupine for several years, since there was a colony of Karner Blues in my county that was threatened by development. I have no idea how the development went or whether the butterflies are still around or not. But, I have a ton of wild blue lupine seeds if anyone needs any. I moved to a new house this fall and I have much less sun for gardening. So, I'd love for others to make good use of them. E-mail me if you're interested.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 8:37PM
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