Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Russell Lupin, Russell Lupine
Lupinus polyphyllus 'Russell'

Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lupinus (loo-PIE-nus) (Info)
Species: polyphyllus (pol-ee-FIL-us) (Info)
Cultivar: Russell
Additional cultivar information: (aka Russell Hybrids Mixed)

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

48 members have or want this plant for trade.

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18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Seed is poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow
Light Blue
Medium Blue
Dark Blue
Dark Purple/Black
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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11 positives
4 neutrals
3 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive derbeh On Mar 19, 2013, derbeh from Los Angeles, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

There are many micro-climates here in Los Angeles. I grew my first successful Russel variety in mid-Wilshire district, but lost it in the winter when the soil was constantly saturated with rain water. Now on the west side, I am growing some very robust seedlings out now - soil is very sandy and loamy, and the weather is Pacific Coast - very mild with lots of fog, humidity and cool temps, even in the heat of summer. I have to be careful during our Santa Ana wind events though. I will sometimes shade the plants on those days and sprinkle well with water.

Positive 1alh1 On May 20, 2012, 1alh1 from Sidney, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

I never had luck with starter plants from garden centers. But soaking the seeds before planting outdoors has resulted in beautiful spikes in virtually color but yellow. Starting seeds indoors and transplanting was a waste of time. The taproot grows too quickly to safely move to a permanent location. Covering the crown with soil or letting it sit in water also results in death. So now I tag (noting the color) one spike from each healthy plant, cut down the remaining spikes after they've finished blooming, and collect the seeds from my tagged spikes. I bag the seeds and refrigerate them until fall or spring. Oftentimes, depending on weather conditions, I get a second, smaller flush of blooms from plants that the earwigs and slugs haven't decimated. When planting in the fall, I'll simply drop seeds in small furrows where I want new or replacement plants. No soaking required if I time it just before it rains. In the early spring, I soak the seeds overnight and drop them into furrows. Frost doesn't seem to diminish their ability to germinate successfully. I rarely water full-grown plants. The deep taproot provides the moisture they need. Gorgeous, showy plants with very little care involved.

Neutral SilkKnoll On Feb 12, 2012, SilkKnoll from Tuskegee, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

I notice that all of the successful plants that are discussed here are in climates cooler than zone 7.

I tried them several times -- both purchased plants and growing from seeds -- and, although I could get them started well enough in the spring, they did not survive the long, hot summers of the deep south.

A couple of comments are from people who suspected clay soil was the problem. Clay is common here, but my flower beds are full of composted organic matter and sand that break up the clay soil, and the bottom of the beds are angled for drainage. I've even tried them in terraced beds that are french-drained, So drainage and clay are not the problem.

I don't recommend anyone try this in climates warmer than zone 6.

One poster from the northwest seems to have had success. While winters in the northwest are as mild as ours are in the southeast, their summers are not as hot as ours, and they have more cloudy weather than we do.

Lupines will simply not take the heat or sun of the southeast in zone 7 or above.

I have not been able to germinate Texas native lupines, but I suspect they would be something of an alternative for hotter climates, although their form and height are quite different.

Positive TweezersClorine On Jan 18, 2012, TweezersClorine from Limerick
Canada wrote:

Russell Lupins are easy to grow and are subject to mildew after they go to seed. So, I wait until the seed pods are full and ripe cut the stems way back and let them grow up again. About 2 weeks later, I harvest the seed, refrigerate them and start them in cell packs the next February..

Neutral lehua_mc On Nov 5, 2009, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

I grew mine from seed, started in spring, and by mid summer I had lush, flowering plants that drew immediate comment from my garden visitors. They then went to seed, fell victim to powdery mildew, went limp and looked like hell for the rest of the season. Pull them ruthlessly? Oh not yet. Not quite yet.

Neutral Ian01 On Sep 24, 2009, Ian01 from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil wrote:

Nicked seeds germinate in just two days (but young seedlings are susceptible to Dumping-off).

Positive Sitkagardener On Aug 24, 2009, Sitkagardener from Sitka, AK wrote:

These grew amazingly well here in Sitka, A cool summer temperate rainforest. I soaked the seeds over night and have had quite a show, flowering about 70 days after sowing. It has been dry this year compared to average but they got some water nearly ever day.

Positive trioadastra On May 9, 2009, trioadastra from Ellsworth, WI (Zone 4a) wrote:

I've had seed grown lupines for several years now, and have yet to see even a hint of invasiveness. They seem to to best in areas with cooler summers. Mine have even survived clay soil in part shade, although the ones in clay soil on a hillside do better. They germinate in about 2 days if you nick and soak the seed. Very easy to grow.

Positive art_n_garden On Mar 23, 2009, art_n_garden from Colorado Springs, CO (Zone 6a) wrote:

I love lupines, but as others I have had a near impossible time getting them to grow. I started seed, I bought plants large and small...all of them croaked.

The only thing I found to work is to plant a healthy specimen in the fall, let it go dormant over winter and in the spring it will come back with a vengance. I now have a good set growing in part shade in horrible, clay dirt.

Negative eliasastro On Oct 25, 2008, eliasastro from Athens
Greece (Zone 10a) wrote:

All my attempts failed (seeds, roots).
I think my climate is too hot for it.

Positive crockny On Jul 8, 2008, crockny from Kerhonkson, NY (Zone 5a) wrote:

Love the blue ones -- I did not do well with my first lupines but have several now ... they need to be very well drained, perhaps planted on a hillside or hill up the soil where you plant them ... same for delphiniums ... I also have both in part shade which helps in August heat and lack of rain ...

Negative dicentra63 On Jun 28, 2007, dicentra63 from West Valley City, UT (Zone 6b) wrote:

I planted one mature-looking specimen and the thing perished. Might be the clay soil.

Positive Gabrielle On Mar 23, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

Also Lupine densiflorus. My information says hardy in zones 4-8. Soaking seeds aids germination.

Positive daryl On Jul 8, 2005, daryl from vernon, BC (Zone 6a) wrote:

Have three varieties of 'Russell' all do extremly well in direct sun and in very hot summer conditions,Do not let them go to seed!

Positive mattpalucci On Jun 27, 2005, mattpalucci wrote:

I 'brought back' some seeds of Lupine from Bailey Island, Maine from last summers vacation and planted them in Middletown, Delaware. The soil conditions are somewhat sandy, although with good humus mixed in and in full sun for most of the afternoon. (The seeds I planted in shaded conditons grew into plants but with much less flowers.)
The blue-flowered Maine lupine rewarded my efforts with a show of magnificence.
This is the best souvenir I could possibly want from Maine.

Negative sanity101 On May 21, 2005, sanity101 from Dublin, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

Several attempts at growing this plant in a part shade location failed. Some of the seedlings came back the second year, but none flowered. All were gone by year three. Clay soil may be the culprit. It seems there's a reason that plant stores around here don't carry potted starts.

Positive kooger On May 24, 2004, kooger from Oostburg, WI (Zone 5b) wrote:

My lupin is called 'Russell Red' but is more hot pink than red. When it blooms, it is absolutely breathtaking. Last year it did not bloom, unsure if it's a biennial or was hit by neighboring farmer's weed spray. I've allowed a few seedlings to grow to see what color they will be, it is noted as not true to parent in some sources. Seedlings should bloom next year.

2005 update - the seedlings bloomed this year and are identical in color to the parent.

Neutral CARRIGAN On Jun 17, 2001, CARRIGAN from Milford, CT (Zone 6a) wrote:

Blooms during May and June. Dense spikes of pealike flowers rise above the foliage for a month or more. A wide color range including solids and bicolors, white, cream, pink, red, blue, yellow, orange, and purple. Foliage forms clumps of green silky-haired leaves that can be up to a foot across and are rounded in outline but cut into many fingerlike lobes. Full sun is best but tolerates some shade. Likes humus-rich, acid, well-drained soil and plentiful moisture. Taproots resent disturbance. Mulch to keep soil cool. Deadhead spent spikes to ensure strong plants and promote a possible second bloom. Short-lived perennial. Stem cuttings can be taken in the fall and overwintered in a cold frame.

Sow seeds thinly 1/4" deep in cold frame or shady border in early summer in rows 6" apart. Keep soil moist and protect from sun. Seedlings emerge in 14-28 days depending on soil and weather conditions. When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings 8" apart. In the fall, plant out in permanent sunny or partially shady location, spacing plants 2 feet apart. Transplant carefully so that long tap root is not broken. Cover with straw or evergreen branches in fall to protect in areas with severe winters. Can also be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Sitka, Alaska
Chowchilla, California
Los Angeles, California (2 reports)
Merced, California
Colorado Springs, Colorado (2 reports)
Denver, Colorado
Parker, Colorado
Middletown, Delaware
Braselton, Georgia
Cordele, Georgia
Machesney Park, Illinois
Mackinaw, Illinois
Mount Prospect, Illinois
Springfield, Illinois
Macy, Indiana
Petersburg, Indiana
Dubuque, Iowa
Inwood, Iowa
Kalona, Iowa
Corbin, Kentucky
Reading, Massachusetts
Tyngsboro, Massachusetts
Ceresco, Michigan
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Gladwin, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Owosso, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rosemount, Minnesota
Fort Benton, Montana
Wilsall, Montana
Auburn, New Hampshire
Durham, New Hampshire
Strafford, New Hampshire
Plainfield, New Jersey
Pompton Lakes, New Jersey
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Berkshire, New York
Elba, New York
Granville, New York
Monsey, New York
Mooers, New York
Southold, New York
Syracuse, New York
West Islip, New York
Garner, North Carolina
Belfield, North Dakota
Columbia Station, Ohio
Geneva, Ohio
Shelby, Ohio
Sidney, Ohio
Bend, Oregon
Hubbard, Oregon
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Silverton, Oregon
Meshoppen, Pennsylvania
New Paris, Pennsylvania
Schwenksville, Pennsylvania
Rapid City, South Dakota
Kalama, Washington
Redmond, Washington
Rosalia, Washington
Seattle, Washington (2 reports)
Wilkeson, Washington
Bayfield, Wisconsin
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
Junction City, Wisconsin
Marinette, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
New Berlin, Wisconsin
Pulaski, Wisconsin
Wittenberg, Wisconsin

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