Also known as Coulter’s lupine, desert lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus) is a wildflower that grows across the southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico. This nectar-rich desert wildflower is highly attractive to a number of pollinators, including honeybees and bumblebees. Read on to learn more about desert lupine plants.
Desert Lupine Information
A member of the pea family, desert lupine is a distinctive plant with dark green, palmate leaves and spikes of blue or purple, pea-like flowers. Height at maturity is about 18 inches (45 cm.), but desert lupine may reach heights of up to 4 feet (1 m.).
Desert lupine plants bloom prolifically in moist years, carpeting the desert with color. However, this hardy plant blooms even in dry years, and is commonly found growing along roadsides.
How to Grow Desert Lupine Plants
Well-drained soil is a necessity for growing desert lupines; don’t expect the plant to thrive in clay. Full sunlight is preferable, however, the plant will tolerate light shade, which can be beneficial during hot afternoons.
Plant desert lupine seeds directly outdoors in fall or plant stratified seeds in early spring. Before planting, rub the seeds lightly with sandpaper to break through the hard outer coating. You can also soak the seeds in warm water overnight.
Loosen the soil before planting to allow space for the long taproot, then cover the seeds with about ½ inch of soil (1 cm.). Water as needed to keep the soil lightly moist until the seeds have germinated.
Plant desert lupine seeds where you expect them to live out their lives. Desert lupine plants don’t appreciate having their roots disturbed and don’t transplant well.
Desert Lupine Plant Care
Desert lupine seedlings tend to be slow growers. Water the plants lightly as needed and protect them from frost.
Once desert lupine plants are mature, they tolerate drought well. However, they benefit from occasional irrigation during dry weather.
Feed desert lupines lightly once per month during the growing season using a general-purpose fertilizer. Like other lupine plants, they fix nitrogen in the soil, making them good companions wherever nitrogen loving plants will be grown.
Pinch wilted flowers to encourage prolific blooming throughout the season.