It is a biennial plant which begins its life as a small gravel-like seed. The seed has a hard seed coat that must be penetrated by wind, rain and weather over the course of a few months (but sometimes several years). In the fall the bluebonnets emerge as small seedings with two cotyledons, and later a rosette of leaves that are palmately compound with 5-7 leaflets 3-6 cm long, green with a faint white edge and hair. Growth continues over the mild winter months and then in the spring will take off and rapidly grow larger before sending up a 20-40 cm tall plume of blue flowers (with bits of white and occasionally a tinge of pinkish-red).
It has been found in the wild with isolated mutations in other colors, most notably all-white flowers, pink, and maroon. These mutations have since been selectively bred to produce different color strains that are available commercially.