Virtues: We love Carolina lupine (Thermopsis villosa) for its lemony yellow flowers that appear in late spring to early summer. This Mid-South native plant puts up with heat and drought, supports beneficial insects and songbirds and provides materials for cut-flower bouquets. This perennial was named Perennial of the Year for 2015 by Nebraska’s GreatPlants program.
Common name: Carolina lupine
Botanical name: Thermopsis villosa
Flowers: Lupine- and baptisia-like flowers appear from late spring into early summer, in thick clusters up to a foot long, topping stalks that can rise to 5 feet tall. The flowers are bright yellow. Thick brown seed pods follow Carolina lupine’s flowering. Flowers and seeds attract pollinating insects and birds.
Foliage: Thick, dense 3-lobed dark green leaves cover Carolina lupine’s stems.
Habit: Herbaceous perennial growing 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 wide.
Season: Late spring to early summer, for flowers.
Origin: Woodland clearings of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
How to grow Carolina lupine: Grow in full sun, in average and well-drained soil. Provide moderate, even water for best flowering and plant health, although Carolina lupine will tolerate drought once it is established, due to its long taproot. This taproot also makes it resistant to transplanting, so site Carolina lupine carefully to avoid wanting to move it later. USDA Zones 5–8.
Image courtesy of GreatPlants.
Miriam Goldberger’s Taming Wildflowers will help you choose native flowers that will make your garden low maintenance, colorful, friendly to pollinators and other wildlife, plus a source of fresh-cut bouquets (recipes included!).
Design and tend a naturalistic perennial garden with flowers like Carolina lupine using the advice in Roy Diblik’s The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden.
Learn more native plants that will support pollinators and other helpful insects with Jessica Walliser’s Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden.