Spring blooming lupines, Lupinus albus, were cultivated 4,000 years ago by the Egyptians. In the Americas, Lupinus mutabilis were brought into cultivation 1,500 years ago.
Although we think of lupines as flowers, they are grown as a feed for livestock in many parts of the world. Because they grow well on poor, sandy soils and in fact improve the soil, lupines are often grown for soil improvement and followed by a more demanding crop, such as melon, corn or wheat.
Romans used them medicinally for skin ailments and as an antidote for the bite of an asp, although there is no data on the effectiveness of the latter.
Lupines prefer slightly acidic soil that is well-drained and moderately fertile. They do best in full sun, but will grow in partial shade.
Sow annual lupines from seed around the time of your last frost. They will bloom about two months later.
Perennial lupines are best sown from seed in autumn. Soak the seeds in warm water for a day before sowing. They will bloom in mid-spring. You can also start plants indoors about eight weeks before consistent frost free weather in your area. Plant outside after all danger of frost is past.
Space lupines about 10 to 12 inches apart. Water regularly and fertilize with a high phosphorous, low nitrogen fertilizer. (In other words, a low first number and high second number, such as a fertilizer labeled 5-25-10.)
Lupines come in blue, purple, pink, yellow and white. They will bloom over and over if you deadhead them by cutting off faded flowers.
Pliny, the Greek writer and physician, claims that the smoke of burnt lupines kills gnats.
I wonder if it works on mosquitoes.