With a few pointers, planting bluebonnets is an easy, rewarding undertaking with a beautiful payoff. Here are three quick steps to getting those Texas beauties blooming and decorating your garden.
Step 1 - Plant Before December 15
Make sure you plant before December 15th. That is very important, as germination occurs during the winter months. In order to have a strong, healthy root system, the plant needs the whole winter to grow.
Step 2 - Plant in Well-Adapted Soil
The climate in Texas where bluebonnet's are the state flower is dry and the soil somewhat nutrient depleted. Bluebonnets actually help by enriching the soil with nitrogen. A bacterium called Rhizobium fixes itself to the root system of bluebonnets, transferring needed nutrients like nitrogen to the plant.
Step 3 - Seed to Soil Contact
Seed to soil contact is essential to the growth of a healthy blooming bluebonnet. After seeding, cover with no more than a 1/4 inch of soil. This is just enough to protect from birds and from baking in the sun. After planting water gently but heavily, water lightly every 3 days for the next 3 weeks. The bluebonnet is a drought-ready flower so make sure the soil is only slightly moist.
It's recommended that you use 1 ounce, or 850 to 1000 seeds every 200 square feet, roughly 5 seeds every square foot.
Step 4 - Cautions
If you prepare the seeds as suggested by this article, however, you run the risk of damaging the seed, which could impact growth and fertility of the plant in the future. It’s best left to nature to run its course, it may take extra patience but you’ll be rewarded in the long run. Some seeds do not germinate within the first year, by scarifying you run the risk of bacteria getting into the seed and destroying it before it has a chance to take root. Now it takes about a year or two for bluebonnets to really come in full, so plan for that.
Step 5 - Blooming
If you planted your bluebonnets before the December 15 cut-off they should begin blooming between March 15th and May 1st; the flowering season lasts for about 1 month. Fertilization is not suggested, as it can yield weak plants that are leaf-heavy and flower-deficient. However, if you notice your plant is struggling it is better to fertilize well into the spring.
Once you notice the foliage turning brown and dying you can mow. This will help spread seeds and cut down on unwanted weeds and grass. Typically a height of 4 to 6 inches is suggested for the plants.
Step 6 - Storage
You can safely store mature seeds in your refrigerator. Pods turn yellow or brown, and start to dry upon reaching maturity.
- They should be harvested and stored before they spread seed.
- Simply place them on newspaper to air dry. Any moisture left in them when stored can cause mold that can damage the seed.
- After dried, put the seeds in an air-locked container with some desiccant like silica gel, which can be picked up at most craft stores.
- Kept in the produce section of your refrigerator, seeds can easily last until next fall.
You can also transplant established bluebonnets, as they are already strong. But be careful not to cover the central crown structure that all the leaves stem from, otherwise the plant will rot.