Everything you need to know about Bluebonnet Flowers, what they look like, how they reproduce, their ideal conditions, and how to care for them.
Bluebonnet Flowers (Lupinus)
Bluebonnet flowers are members of the genus lupinus, and it is the name elected for any purple lupine flower. These beautiful flowers are members of the pea botanical family as well (fabaceae).
This flower species can be found growing all over the southwestern United States, and most prominently in Texas. The Texas bluebonnet variety is the elected Texas state flower, and they cover huge areas of Texas like a stunning blue area rug.
It’s never too early start thinking about your spring garden, and we’ve prepared a huge list of Beautiful Flowers that you can add to your garden. If you don’t live in an area where bluebonnets can grow, fret not! We’re sure you’ll find something suitable in that list for your growing region.
Why is it Called a Bluebonnet?
There are few things more delightful than the names given to the flora and fauna of the planet. Most times they are given such obvious names that it is nearly hard to believe that simplistic of names has stood the test of time.
The bluebonnet flower gets its name for a very simple reason, and that is the shape of the flower. The growth pattern of the petals resembles the bonnets worn by women in pioneer times that shaded them from the sun (and let’s be honest, probably for modesty as well). Since bluebonnets are native to Texas, it is likely the name originated from settlers from that region.
What are Some Popular Types of Bluebonnet Flowers?
Lupinus Texensis – Texas Bluebonnet
The most well known of the lupine flowers is the Texas bluebonnet, or sometimes called the wolf flower. This is the official state flower of Texas, as it is completely endemic to that state. Endemic meaning that it has only ever been recorded growing wild in that place
These flowers are so prevalent in central Texas, north Texas, and east Texas, that there are roadside restrictions that prevent tourists from stopping dangerously on the side of the road to take photos. Although, it is certain that many a Texan have themselves a bluebonnet photo.
There are several natural mutated cases of Texas bluebonnets, resulting in flowers that are either entirely white, entirely pink, or an entirely maroon bluebonnet.
Lupinus Argenteus – Silvery Lupine
The silvery lupine flower is native to mostly western North America, with its growing range starting in the most southwestern provinces of Canada and extended down towards south central and southwestern United States. These flowers grow in several different habitat types, including forests, grasslands, and sagebrush.
The silvery lupine flower is a perennial herb that grows to be about 10cm tall with stems that are covered in a silvery hair-like down. The flowers themselves can be a purple, blue, or white color.
Lupinus Concinnus – Bajada Lupine
The Bajada lupine flower is native mostly to the southwestern United States, occurring from California towards Texas and south into some Mexican states as well. These flowers are known for being able to tolerate many types of habitats.
The Bajada lupine flower is an annual herb with a hairy stem that can be between 10 and 30cm long. Flowers grow in dense spirals and can be either purple, pink, or white.
Lupinus Havardii – Big Bend Bluebonnet or Chisos Bluebonnet
The Big Bend bluebonnet is a flower that is native to the areas occurring between Texas and Chihuahua. They are exceptionally prominent in Big Bend National Park, hence the flowers’ name. They tend to grow best in desert valleys and along mountain slopes.
This bluebonnet plant is an annual herb with very long and slender branching stems that can be up to 50 inches tall! They bear flowers that are deep purple or blue.
Lupinus Perennis – Wildflower Bluebonnet
The wildflower bluebonnet goes by many names, including; wild perennial lupine, wild lupine, sundial lupine, blue lupine, Indian beet bluebonnet, or old maid’s bonnets. They are one of the most widespread of the genus lupinus, and grow all over the eastern United States and in some parts of Canada as well. They tend to grow in very sandy areas and sand dunes.
This plant is comprised on many tall and erect stems that are covered in pubescent silky hairs. They are one of the most sparsely flowered plants, and bear flowers that can be either pink, purple, blue, or white.
Lupinus Subcarnosus – Sandyland Bluebonnet or Buffalo Clover
The Buffalo clover is very similar to the Texas bluebonnet, and they grow in the same growing regions. They grow best along roadsides and in sandy fields, hence their other name, the Sandyland bluebonnet.
What do Bluebonnet Flowers Look Like?
As mentioned before, bluebonnet flowers got their name because of their physical resemblance to the shape of hat worn by women in pioneer times.
Flowers grow in clusters of up to 50 individual flowers, and will be either a deep blue or purple color. Each flower is marked in the centre by a white or yellow mark.
These herbaceous annual flowers can grow to be up to 0.3 meters in height. Flowers occur at the ends of stems in large clusters.
These plants bear palmately compound leaves. Each leaf is comprised of 5 leaflets that are covered in a silvery down hair.
Bluebonnets can cover a large spread of space. Once they are established, they can be the single plant in an area. Leaflets grow close to the ground with a single stem growing upwards from the rosette.
How do Bluebonnets Reproduce?
Bluebonnets are annuals, meaning that they begin their life as a seed. They go from seed, to flower, to those flowers seeding all within a year.
A seed will germinate in the fall, grow into a rosette throughout the winter, and then a flower will bloom in the early spring, within the months of March and May.
In May, a flower will form seed pod that pops open and releases small and hard seeds. A bluebonnet seed has a rather low germination rate, as they are covered in hard casings.
These casings are an evolutionary adaptation to drought conditions. Seeds will remain viable in drought conditions, and can lay dormant until water has returned to an area.
This helps in germination, as the dry soils help wear down the hard casing which will in turn allow for quicker germination once the water returns.
Where do Bluebonnet Flowers Grow?
Bluebonnet flowers grow in USDA growing zone 8. Depending on the variety of flower, they can grow all over western and central North America.
How do you Care for Bluebonnet Flowers?
Though it can be difficult to establish a bluebonnet patch in an area that they have never grown before, with patience and observation, you could soon be enjoying this beautiful blue carpet on your property.
The first thing to consider, is preparing your patch of property for the seeds. First mow up all of the existing vegetation and remove the debris. Then, disturb the soil as much as you can and sprinkle the seeds on the surface. Then, stomp around (maybe to a funky tune) to help cover the seeds.
Want an extra hot tip? Help seeds germinate by doing something called”scarification”. Scarifying the seeds is essentially helping the abrasion process. Scratch or nick the individual seeds to help stimulate a natural weathering process, which will then trigger the seed to germinate.
Bluebonnets are well adapted to rocky alkaline soils that exist in hill country. They like it so much that they completely thrive in soils that are dry and low in nutrients. It is best if this poor soil is also heavily disturbed.
These soils can be any of the following: limestone based, chalky sandy loam, medium loam, clay loam, clay, or caliche.
Bluebonnets are completely shade intolerant, and need full sun to thrive. They are not fair competitors. So much so that no other plants should even try to grow in their patch!
When seeds are in the beginning of their germination process, they do enjoy to have a moderate amount of water. However, once a seedling is established, they will perform best under natural precipitation conditions. They rarely need to be watered, and they do not tolerate waterlogged soils.
Bluebonnets can tolerate frost, though not consistent bouts of it. They can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because bluebonnets are adapted to the rocky and poor soils of hill country, they actually prefer to exist in low nutrient soil. They will not perform well if given fertilizer.
Bluebonnets do not require pruning in the slightest. Though it may be nice to trim some up and give them as surprise gifts to your loved ones!
Bluebonnets are intolerant of nutrient rich soil, intolerant of shade, and are also intolerant of waterlogged and poorly drained soils.
What are the Uses of Bluebonnet Flowers?
The beautiful bluebonnet is a wonderful source of nectar for bee species and butterfly species as well. They can be found growing in the wild alongside the prickly pear cactus and the Indian paintbrush.
These spring wildflowers are also a common planting along roadsides and in large fields. In Texas, these flowers actually are a symbol of Texas pride, and are often a statement flower for celebratory state events.
There is even a bluebonnet festival called the Ennis Bluebonnet Trail Festival. As the bloom peak occurs around the third week of April, this bluebonnet festival will go on for several weeks during the month of April, where folks come in from all over to walk the ennis bluebonnet trails and observe