Mar 9, 2011

More on Mystery Lupine

A comment from Lisa and Robb on my last, long-ago post has prompted me to get off my keister and post an update. I've been allowing myself to fall back on the excuse of being distracted and busy. I haven't actually spent a lot of time in the yard this winter, but it is carrying on quite well without me--which is exactly what I wanted it to do. I do check in with the plants, but I've done very little serious work. Spent a day each of planting and weeding in January. It gives me unspeakable joy--and I'm not really exaggerating there--to see the plants take on a life of their own, spreading a little or a lot, and growing in expected and unexpected ways.

So, in sum, a pretty hands-off winter for this gardener, but by way of update on the strange lupine from my pre-Christmas post:  it isn't presently blooming, but I'd say it's healthier than ever.  As I'd mentioned, I can't think of what it would be other than Lupinus succulentus, because that was introduced in the yard in the form of a wildflower seed packet years ago. I'm not one to whip out a Jepson Manual (I don't even have one) and key out plants, but the lupine fits the general description of L. succulentus, except for its persistence through the seasons, so I think it is simply The Annual that Wouldn't Die.

Also, it now has a lovely large family!  Here's a seedling that volunteered in a cell pack of assorted cuttings.

And here's one that volunteered in a patio pot.

I think it'll look nice in a pot, too.  In addition, when I had to cut the big mama plant back from the footpath, I took about 10 cuttings of it, a couple of which keeled, three of which are still unrooted, and five of which struck roots and have already been planted out.  I put  the cuttings in cell packs, and I don't think it's customary to plant out  into the yard straight from cell packs, but I've always heard that lupines don't like having their roots messed with, so I opted to skip the intermediate step of potting up to a 4".  Here's one of the unrooted cell pack cuttings still at home after his siblings have headed off to college.

The cuttings that rooted took about two months.  Which is another weird thing about the lupine being an annual, because I don't think of cuttings as a thing you do with annuals.  Do gardeners out there reproduce annual species via cuttings?   Maybe it only works if they are weird, immortal annuals like this one...

I do think the plant is lovely.   Here it is in my little former-lawn area where it volunteered--it's that bushy thing behind the grasses.

The comment on my previous post mentioned lupines being tricky to grow, and except in the case of this one, I agree.  My L. arboreus on the patio keeled (too hot), and my L. albifrons on the hill keeled (reason unknown).

And last year I did try one other, Lupinus latifolius ssp. parishii, but all four specimens got eaten--by snails, I think.  I desperately wanted that plant, because it is a shade-tolerant lupine.  L. latifolius, which is local to the area but sparse, is apparently not found in the nursery trade, so I went with the subspecies. (If any local nurserypersons are reading, please propagate some L. latifolius!)

Lisa and Robb, I'm pretty confident my giant lupine and its family will bloom again, so if you want, I can collect some seeds; when they're ready I could let you know and you could send an address to send them. Free, of course!

In closing, here's a picture of the boss-man supervising me as I took the photos today. By the look on his face, I don't think he's impressed with my work.


  1. Wow! It does look like Lupinus succulentus, except that it's gigantic. Which I suppose would tend to happen if one survived an entire year.

  2. Really gorgeous!

    Maybe your kitty looks grumpy because it is pondering the death-by-snails that has happened to all if my lupines. Yesterday, I found snail eight feet up in my lemon tree. This rain is too good for those slimy creatures.

    I'm working on the snail problem, and would LOVE some lupine seeds!

  3. You got it, I'll collect the seeds. Won't be for a while because at the moment I don't see any flower buds, but the plant seems to be very healthy, so I'm assuming it will flower again and I'll let you know when the seed pods ripen. I know what you mean about snails--lupines do seem to be particularly susceptible. I don't know why my giant lupine made it. Slight update on the Lupinus latifolius I said all got eaten by snails last year: the other day I noticed that one of them is barely still surviving and has a couple leaves. I'm crossing my fingers that the snails overlook it this time, and it gets to mature into a real plant!

  4. Those are beautiful Lupines!I recently bought a native wildflower seed mix from Home Depot with some Arroyo Lupines in it,but even after a month they're 3-4" and light green. Granted, they are in a shallow pot with wild flax,yarrow,poppies in a hard sandy soil mix, but i still dont see why they'd be so slow to grow and delicate.Anyways, hope we see more of your annuals soon Jess :)