How to grow lupins
All you need to know about growing lupins, with sowing, planting and growing advice, plus varieties to try.
Lupins are a cottage-garden favourite, offering height and colour to the middle of a border in May and June. They bear impressive, pea-like flowers, which are loved by bumblebees. They make a perfect cut flower.
How to grow lupins at home
Plant lupins in full sun to partial shade, in moist but well-drained soil. Protect young plants from slugs and snails. Cut the flowers back after blooming and propagate from basal cuttings in spring.
More on growing lupins:
See below for more detailed advice on growing lupins.
Where to grow lupins
Lupins do best in full sun or dappled shade, in moist but well-drained soil. Like many other perennials with tall flowers, lupins benefit from a sheltered position.
More like this
Grow them towards the back of a border. Avoid planting them in containers as they grow weakly and can be susceptible to aphid attacks – they grow much better in the ground.
Although a traditional cottage garden plant, lupins can be planted in more contemporary planting schemes. Try growing them in large drifts among ornamental grasses, for an unusual effect.
How to plant lupins
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.
How to propagate lupins
Lupins do not come true to type from seed, so lupins grown from seed are likely to flower in 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 lupins is by taking basal cuttings in spring. Lupins will also self-seed in the garden, so lifting the seedlings with a garden trowel and potting them on, in is also a great way to generate new plants.
Growing lupins: problem solving
Spring shoots of lupins are prone to slug and snail damage, so be vigilant against attack. Protect lupins with copper tape or wildlife-friendly slug pellets, or pick slugs and snails off the plants every evening. The lupin aphid (Macrosiphum albifrons) can also be a problem for lupins. These grey aphids can form large colonies and gradually weaken the plant. Birds and other predators should manage aphid infestations naturally but if you don't see signs of the colonies abating, cut off very infested flower spikes and spray with blast of water from your hose. You can use chemical control, but bear in mind that these chemicals also harm, and can kill, bees.
Caring for lupins
Deadhead lupins once flowers have faded and you should be rewarded with a second flush of flowers. In autumn, cut lupins right back to the ground after collecting seed. Lupins are not long-lived plants – expect to replace plants after about six years.
Great lupins to grow:
- Lupinus ‘Cashmere Cream’ – reaches 90cm. Creamy white flowers in June. Buy from Crocus, Waitrose Garden and Gardening Express
- Lupinus ‘Rachel de Thame’ – a stunning white and pink lupin with June blooms. Reaching about 90cm. Buy from Crocus and Gardening Express
- Lupinus arboreus (pictured) - a beautiful evergreen shrub. Height 2m. Buy from Crocus
- Lupinus ‘The Pages’ – dark maroon spires of flowers in May and June reaching an impressive 1.2m. Buy from Crocus, Sarah Raven and Thompson & Morgan
- 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. Buy from Suttons, J Parker's and Thompson & Morgan
- Lupinus ‘Terracotta’ – warm orange/red flowers in May to July. Reaches a height of 1m. Buy from Crocus and Sarah Raven