Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sundial Lupine
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy soil; fields, prairies, edges of woods
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:8 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in a spike-like cluster to 8 inches long. Individual flowers are ¾ to 1 inch long and a typical pea-shape, on a short stalk. The lower parts of the flower are blue. The upper parts may be blue, or two-tone blue and purple, or blue and white. Both upper and lower parts have many darker blue veins running through them. The lower parts are forced open by insects to reveal a horn-shaped stamen. One plant has multiple spikes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are divided into 7 to 11 leaflets, radiating from a central point at the end of a long stalk. Leaflets are hairy, up to 2 inches long and ½ inch wide, have rounded tips, often with a small sharp point at the apex, and taper at the base. Stems are hairy to varying degrees and may become smooth with age.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The seed pod is up to 2 inches long, hairy, shaped like a typical pea pod, and turns black when mature. Each pod contains 2 to several seeds.


Wild Lupine is the only host plant for the Karner Blue butterfly caterpillar. Habitat loss has led to the decline in plants, and put the Karner Blue on the endangered species list. At Wild River State Park efforts have been made to increase the Lupine population, as Karner Blues have been seen just across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. I wish them success. A similar species in Minnesota is Large-leaved Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), native to western North America but introduced in the Midwest by gardeners, which has become invasive especially along the north shore of Lake Superior. It is overall a larger plant with taller spikes and 9 to 17 leaflets.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Chisago County and in a private garden in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jeanie - st.louis county
on: 2010-06-19 13:03:46

I was wondering if the lupin plant looked the same in Boulevard California as it does in Minnesota?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-06-20 01:22:08

There are two species of lupine in MN, one native to MN and another native to the western US, but not MN. The latter has been planted around the state, though, mostly in northern counties, as I understand it. You may see that in St Louis county more than the native variety.

Posted by: Kelsey - Tofte
on: 2010-07-02 18:36:17

I was just wondering what is the difference between wild/blue lupine the kind that is the host plant for the blue karner butterfly versus purple lupine the invasive species? can you tell the difference between the appearance? does anyone know the scientific names?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-07-02 20:53:33

The other lupine that is especially widespread in NE MN is Lupinus polyphyllus. The DNR does not recognize it as native though some sources would have you believe otherwise.

Its leaves are arranged in a palmate cluster like Lupinis perennis, but leaflets are larger and sharply pointed at the tip, and there tend to be more of them. The flower color also ranges from near white to shocking pink to purple, and the spikes grow taller.

If you saw them side by side you'd see the differences immediately.

Posted by: Garret - Le Sueur
on: 2012-07-08 18:20:52

I am thinking of planting these in a 3/4 acre plot as a nitrogen fixing plant. I have read differing opinions as to the best time to plant. Does lupine do best when planted early spring or early fall? Is there a reference I can check for additional information?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-07-08 18:25:34

Garret, if you're planting seed, I suggest following the instructions provided by the seed vendor, assuming it's someone specializing in natives.

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2013-06-17 18:45:53

If you would like to see a huge bloom of these plants visit the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge along the driving route. It is blooming right now! 6/17/13

Posted by: Jane - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2014-10-14 17:23:03

Lupinus perennis is difficult for me to grow. I may have overwatered some of them as seedlings. I have planted some small plugs in both sunny and part-shade locations in my very sandy soil, so one would think it would work out. Of the seven plugs I planted back in July, one is doing okay and has a nice mound of healthy leaves, three still look the same size they were when I planted them as plugs, and the other three have died. Rabitts gnawed on the the plants when they were newly planted, but some cat hair helped deter them. Unfortunately, I think the cat hair drew some other kind of animal. I discovered four piles of mysterious whitish tan scat near the cat hair. Both foxes, coyotes, and neighbor's outdoor cats are known to roam the neighborhood, so who knows. Hopefully, you'll have better luck gardening with Lupinus Perennis than I do. I can't tell if my plants are big enough/hardy enough to survive this coming winter. I don't expect it, but it would be awesome to someday see a Karner Blue butterfly appear.

Posted by: Rebecca - Byron
on: 2016-05-18 09:30:30

I am a teacher working on rehabing our school's prairie restoration/butterfly garden. We may have to shift away from the prairie a bit. Is this plant self seeding?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-18 11:33:54

Rebecca, this species spreads both vegetatively and by seed.

Posted by: Sarah - Saint Paul
on: 2016-06-07 23:35:51

Trying to create butterfly garden. What does lupine need to grow? Sun? Dry? Heat? Thank you I have two small plants to get in the ground ASAP.

Posted by: Sharon K
on: 2017-06-19 11:45:00

We plan to come up to duluth this week (June 19, 2017) to see the lupine on the way to Two Harbors. Is it in bloom now??? Last summer we came in mid july and it was all done....please let me know. thank You.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-06-19 13:40:13

Sharon, FYI you have the wrong lupine - the species growing along roadsides on the north shore is the invasive Lupinus polyphyllus (native to western US, not MN), not the MN native L. perennis. Yeah, it's pretty, but doesn't belong there.

Posted by: Bev D
on: 2017-07-13 02:26:35

I live in north western Minn. I planted Lupine last fall and have not seen the plant yet. Could it take longer for the plant to appear? I also planted packages of other wild flowers and they are blooming beautiful.

Posted by: Debra h - Ottertail
on: 2017-07-26 13:14:19

The pea pos look like edamame. Can you eat them

Posted by: Tom - Minneapolis
on: 2018-05-30 22:56:23

I've half heartedly tried to grow lupin in our native wildflower gardens off and on several times but I've had almost no success. This time I've bought a soil test kit and I've been adjusting my pH down as I think I was getting root rot in earlier attempts. I now have some plants surviving but not thriving even though I have my first bloom. Has anyone tried approaches like this? Any suggestions on other thing I should try? How low should I go in pH?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-05-31 06:02:51

Tom, this species likes dry, sandy soil. If your soil is too rich or moist it may well cause root rot.

Posted by: David G - Shoreview
on: 2018-06-05 20:17:48

There is a nice stand of wild lupine blooming now on the Rice Creek North Regional Trail about a half mile west of the off leash dog park. It's about 50 feet south of the large rock if you know the trail. There are also seedlings growing nearby in my front yard...

Posted by: Mary Munn - Pine County
on: 2018-06-22 18:22:09

I saw this 2 weeks ago growing in a ditch in a heavily wooded area of a sandy dirt road just outside of the Gen. Andrews State forest. SE side. I don't recall the road, It was growing well in spite of being graded over with a larger patch in the ROW.

Posted by: Jim skalski - Hibbing MN
on: 2019-07-29 18:40:37

I was wondering why your county distribution map does not show St Louis and Itasca County's. They are bountiful here unless I'm misidentifying Thanks

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-07-29 19:28:58

Jim, what you see all along roadsides in northeast MN is not the native lupine, but a western species introduced by gardeners that escaped cultivation and is now running amok, unchecked. There are probably two different species: Lupinus polyphyllus, large-leaved lupine, which is all blue-violet, and the Russell hybrid, which color ranges from white to pink to blue-violet. They are pretty, but invasive.

Posted by: Bob Emley - Castle Danger
on: 2020-05-18 12:50:14

I just bought several packages of lupine seeds from Anderson's Greenhouse in Two Harbors. The seeds were rather low priced (2.99) with many seeds per package (approx. 225). The packet was labeled "Silver Creek Seeds", Two Harbors, MN. I have a feeling these are the invasive lupinus Polyphyllus. How can I tell?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-18 17:34:14

Bob, you could plant some in pots and wait for the leaves to emerge, then you could tell for sure which lupine you have.

Posted by: Ted Christenson - Crow-Hassan Park Reserve
on: 2020-05-29 13:37:31

This is blooming now in the open meadows at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve near St. Michael. My daughters and I saw it yesterday in our hike.

Posted by: Joelle - Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve
on: 2020-05-31 12:51:39

This is blooming in abundance at the Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve right now, in the prairie areas southwest of the Horse Trailer parking lot. I took photos and counted leaflets and couldn't find any with more than 9. Most were 8.

Posted by: Todd Mitchell - Rushford, Fillmore County
on: 2020-06-01 09:59:17

Many patches of wild Lupine at Rushford Sand Barrens (MN DNR SNA) sandy soil on top of bluff. Currently blooming.

Posted by: Sara - Lac qui Parle County
on: 2021-05-20 23:55:46

If I started Lupinus perenni seeds now (mid May), would these grow enough to survive the winter? They would be such a beautiful addition to our sandy soil here.

Posted by: LeAnn Plinske - St. Mathias Township
on: 2021-05-25 15:52:03

Blooming in St. Mathias Park and Heritage Trails, south of Brainerd, east of Fort Ripley. There is a bright open prairie area after you walk the trail through the woods for about 1/2 mile.

Posted by: Maia N Howell - Minneapolis
on: 2021-05-26 17:44:43

These are blooming beautifully after the spring burn at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge on the Wildlife Drive. If you go to see them, make sure you continue on after viewing them, as it's a one way road, and last time they had such a spectacular display of them, people were turning around to go the wrong way when finished.

Posted by: Ron - Isanti co.
on: 2021-07-09 16:51:38

I have a 20 acre CRP field that is very Sandy. I have been collecting the seed and dispersing it for 5 years. From a handful of plants to now near 10 acres. The original seed came from sherburne national wildlife refuge as part of the CRP program. Dear love to eat the flowers, so some years there are few seeds to pick. I just throw the seeds on open soil and let God do the rest.

Posted by: Kathleen Jefferson - Crosslake
on: 2021-09-05 20:31:42

I would like to plant Lupines at our lake cabin this fall. What do you recommend?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-09-06 08:19:43

Kathleen, just throw the seed around and let nature take its course.

Posted by: Mary - Washington County
on: 2021-09-20 18:07:38

I am retiring a 50 feet x 80 feet sunny, sandy garden on a hill and seeding it to wildflowers for bees, birds and butterflies. The seed mixtures do not include wild lupines native to Minnesota. Where can I buy seed in that quantity?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-09-21 08:54:03

Mary, we do not track who sells what. Check with native plant nurseries.

Posted by: Heidi Odenius - Burnsville, Dakota County
on: 2023-03-18 11:36:27

I an trying to establish a butterfly garden to provide habitat for native butterflies and moths in our area. So far the butterfly portion of my garden is not doing particularly well. I am looking for good sources of native wildflowers and plants. The garden is small, 5 ft by 8ft, and has mixed sunlight, woods on one side, a sidewalk, garden, then my townhome on the other. It gets direct sunlight for a few hours mid day, but probably shade the rest of the day... I'd like to try again on the butterfly garden again this year. Any suggestions on what to include?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-03-18 12:46:23

Heidi, see the list of native plant nurseries, landscapers and restoration services. Some nurseries are mail order while others are brick-and-mortar. You might also check out Wild Ones, a volunteer organization that advocates for landscaping with native plants; they have several chapters in the Twin Cities area and lots of expertise.

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