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Section 6: Bluebonnets and Other Legumes

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Introduction

Information about bluebonnets is frequently requested. This section should help answer the most frequently asked questions and will generally pertain to other legumes included in the wildflower list in Section 7, Selecting Wildflowers by Natural Vegetative Region. Other legumes include Partridge Pea, Illinois Bundleflower and White Sweet Clover.

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Blooming Date

Blooming date is influenced to some degree by the weather. In general, the first flowers open about March 15 in southern regions but may not show before May 1 in the more northern regions. The length of the flowering period is about one month for bluebonnets, longer for other legumes mentioned.

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Obtaining Seed

The department does not sell seed to the public, but does have a list of seed suppliers located at http://crossroads/org/mnt/VM/wflower2/seed_sup.htm. An order should be placed with a supplier well before the planned sowing date to ensure seed availability.

Seeds may be obtained from mature plants about six weeks after the last flowers fade. These should be harvested before the seed pods explode and scatter the seed. Seed may be sown at harvest or stored for future planting.

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Where to Plant

Bluebonnets grow best in soils that are sweet (containing lime), of moderate infertility, and, most important, well-drained. Bluebonnets and other legumes like plenty of sunshine.

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Planting Time

Plant seeds in late summer or fall (no later than November 1), so they germinate and develop a heavy root system and a sturdy plant throughout the winter, and will produce an abundance of flowers in the spring.

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How to Plant

Soil preparation is not always necessary. Seed-soil contact, however, is essential. Seeds can be broadcast over undisturbed soil. Small areas can be sown by hand or a mechanical hand device. Large areas require a seed drill or other mechanical means that can be calibrated for the seeding rate.

Watering may hasten sprouting, but is not necessary. When watering, wet the area thoroughly but gently. Follow the first watering with additional short waterings every three days for about three weeks. The additional waterings are necessary to keep sprouts started by the initial watering alive.

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Special Precautions

Do not soak bluebonnet seed or prick with pins or in any way disturb the seed coat. Soaking in water can spoil the seed.

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Need for Rhizobium

One of the reasons bluebonnets fail to bloom is lack of essential bacteria in the soil. These bacteria, known as Rhizobium, form nodules on the roots and are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen. This nitrogen fixation is needed for the bluebonnets to bloom.

If bluebonnets have not previously grown in the area, it is unlikely that they will bloom. In this case, planting a wildflower mix is preferable to planting strictly bluebonnets. (See Section 7, Selecting Wildflowers by Natural Vegetative Region. )

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Important Points

To establish successful bluebonnet stands, remember these important points:

  • Order seed early.
  • Sow seed before the first of November.
  • Plant in soil that is well-suited for bluebonnets.
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