By Nola Factor
In spring, our thoughts often turn to bluebonnets when the rolling hills, pastures, and roadsides here in Ellis and Navarro counties are covered with their fragrant blue blooms. In fall when we are busy preparing for the holidays and putting our summer gardens to bed, it’s easy to forget them. Fall, however is when we need to remember to plant the bluebonnets that will wow us next April!
The Texas bluebonnet is a native winter annual which can be easily cultivated from seed with a little plant knowledge and a degree of patience. Bluebonnets, the “State Flower of Texas” grow best on sloped areas in light to gravelly, well-drained soil and require 8 – 10 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimum blooming. In a garden setting, plant them in raised beds (6 inches or more) or bermed areas; amending the soil with 3 or 4 inches of organic matter to improve drainage. Scatter the seeds and lightly cover or rake into the soil to a depth of 1/8″, making sure the seed makes good contact with the soil.
Keep the soil slightly moist and germination should occur in within 15 – 75 days, depending on the soil temperature. The ideal soil temperature for germination is 55 – 70 degrees Farenheit, and although heat is needed to germinate the seed, cool weather is needed to develop the bluebonnet’s root structure. The cool nights of fall, combined with warm days make it the ideal season for germinating bluebonnet seed. Bluebonnets are among a number of spring- blooming wildflowers that germinate in the fall, their tops remaining small while developing a hardy root system throughout the winter that will provide us with a burst of color and fragrance the following spring.
For a showy display of color in a small area, use 8 to 10 seeds per square foot. That means an ounce will cover approximately 135 square feet and 1/2 a pound will cover 1000 square feet.
(Check back in the late spring for bluebonnet seed harvesting and mowing tips)