Lupinus 'Gallery Red'

Lupins - Grow Guide

Get our expert advice on growing lupins - a cottage garden favourite.

Lupins are a cottage-garden favourite offering height and colour to the middle of a border in May and June. Their flowers are borne on impressive spires and have a pea flower style. Their foliage is soft green and coated in fine silver hairs.

Watch our video guide to growing lupins.

These hardy plants are ideal for cutting and although not scented they make a real statement in the home and garden. Numerous garden hybrids are available, so the colour choice is huge. Bees love them.

Here's our expert advice on growing lupins.

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Planting position

Lupins enjoy full sun or dappled shade. The ideal soil is moist but well-drained and can be acid, chalky or neutral. Like many other perennials with tall flowers, they will benefit from a sheltered position.

The back or middle of a border is ideal. Avoid planting them in containers as they are far more successful in the garden. Planted in containers, the growth is often weak which leaves them open to attack from aphids. 

Planting technique

Although a very traditional plant, lupins can be planted to create a modern look. Plant in large drifts running through ornamental grasses for an unusual effect.

Dig a planting hole in a well-drained soil. Plant and firm in place. Water and provide a plant support if planting in summer. Young plants tend to establish better in the garden than larger, more mature specimens.

Lupins do not come true to type from seed, so seed packets are likely to be a mix of colours. Lupins can be divided in spring (not autumn) but division can be tricky as plants have a strong central tap root. The easiest way to propagate plants is by basal cuttings taken in spring. Watch our video guide to taking basal cuttings from a range of plants. Lupins will self-seed in the garden so lifting the seedling with a garden trowel and potting them in is also a great way of generating new plants. 

Before propagating lupins and other plants, check that they are not protected by plant breeders' rights.

Troubleshooting

The new spring shoots of lupins are tempting to slugs and snails so be vigilant and protect them, otherwise they will be munched. However, the main enemy of the lupin is the lupin aphid (Macrosiphum albifrons). They are grey aphids that are spotted on plants anytime between April and September. To control cut off very badly infested flower spikes and spray with a chemical control. Aphids can be rubbed off by hand or with a blast of water, but this is a labour of love. 

Care

Deadhead plants once flowers have faded and you will be rewarded with another flush of flowers. Lupins are not regarded as long-lived plants. Expect to replace plants after about six years. In autumn, cut plants right back to the ground after collecting seed. 

Spade

Use lupins as a green manure

Lupins can be grown as a green manure to improve tired soils. Growing the 'green manure’ lupin will boost nitrogen levels. Sow seed direct in April and dig into the soil in September.

Lupinus aboreus
Lupinus aboreus
  • Lupinus ‘Cashmere Cream’ – reaches 90cm. Creamy white flowers in June
  • Lupinus ‘Rachel de Thame’ – a stunning white and pink lupin with June blooms. Reaching about 90cm
  • Lupinus arboreus (pictured) - a beautiful evergreen shrub. Height 2m
  • Lupinus ‘The Pages’ – dark maroon spires of flowers in May and June reaching an impressive 1.2m
  • Lupinus ‘Russell Hybrids Mixed’ – a real favourite offering a wonderful range of mixed colours. Enjoy yellow, blue, red and pink flowers in May and June. Height 90cm
  • Lupinus ‘Terracotta’ – warm orange/red flowers in May to July. Reaches a height of 1m

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