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Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Leaves are divided into many leaflets that spread out like the fingers of a hand. Sweet pea–like flowers are borne in dense spikes at stem ends. There are hundreds of species, many of them native to the western U.S. and found in a wide range of habitats. The most commonly grown lupines are the Russell hybrids. Most lupines are not fussy about soil, though hybrids prefer rich, slightly acidic soil. All need good drainage.

Lupinus arboreus

Evergreen shrub. Native to California coastal areas. Grows to 5–8 ft. tall and wide. Spring flowers, in clusters 4–16 in. long, are usually yellow but may be lilac, bluish, white, or some mixture of those colors. Striking beach plant. Little or no water.

Lupinus argenteus

Perennial. Native to the Southwest, Sierra Nevada, and the Rocky Mountains. Grows to 2 ft. high and 1 ft. wide, with silvery-haired stems and (usually) smooth leaves. Flowers are variable in color—usually blue, sometimes lilac or white. Moderate to regular water.

Lupinus hybrids

These English-bred hybrid groups are descended from plants native to western America. Perennials growing to 4–5-ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Dense vertical spikes of pea-like flowers in many possible colors rise above the foliage in late spring or early summer.

New Generation hybrids are like Russell hybrids, from which they’re descended, but in more intense colors on sturdier plants that flower longer during the season and live longer (7 or 8 years).

Russell hybrids have tall spikes of white, cream, yellow, pink, red, orange, blue, purple, or bicolored flowers. This is the classic.

Self-sown seedlings won’t resemble the parents.

Lupinus microcarpus densiflorus

Annual. California native grows to 1 1/2–2 ft. high and wide, with white, yellow, pink, or lavender-tinged flowers in spikes to 1 ft. long. ‘Ed Gedling’, a selection of L. m. d. aureus, is a choice form with bright yellow flowers. Sow in fall for spring bloom. Little or no water to moderate water.

Lupinus nanus

Annual. Native from California to British Columbia. Grows to 8–24 in. high and 9–12 in. wide. Spring flowers are rich blue marked with white. Sow seeds in fall or winter; combine California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) with the lupines for contrast. Self-sows readily where it gets little competition. Excellent for barren banks. No irrigation needed except in desert zones.

Lupinus polyphyllus

Native to moist places from California to British Columbia. This perennial grows to 1 1/2–4 ft. tall and 2–2 1/2 ft. wide. Blooms in summer, bearing blue, purple, or reddish flowers in clusters 6–24 in. long. One important ancestor of the Russell hybrids. Regular water.

Lupinus succulentus

California native. This annual grows to 3 ft. high and 2 1/2 ft. wide. It is lush and leafy, with 6-in. spikes of blue flowers in spring. Normally found in damp places but adapts elsewhere; is sometimes used for erosion control. Moderate to ample water.

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