Who doesn’t love butterflies? These wonders of nature are welcome visitors in any garden. Why not encourage them by planting butterfly-friendly flowers, both perennials, and annuals, that can invite these delicately winged wonders to come more often. Let’s look at just a few of the plants that can make a beautiful garden especially inviting for you and the butterflies!
Tall, airy and beautiful. Cosmos have so much going for them! Their blossoms are large and flat and make purr-fect “landing pads” for butterflies.
Cosmos flowers can be white or varying shades of light and dark pink. The blossoms sit on top of lovely, lacy foliage. They make a great show planted in a large clump.
Cosmos are happy in average to poor soil, as long as it’s well-drained. Dead-heading (removing the blossoms as they fade) will keep the flowers coming all season long. Cosmos re-seed easily, but that can be a good thing when a flower is this special.
The spicy fragrance of dianthus is just one of their many attributes. The saw-tooth tips of their petals look like they’ve been trimmed with pinking shears. Colors range from pink to white, red and even bi-color.
Dianthus come in varying heights and make great additions to mixed borders or containers. They prefer morning sun and well-drained soil. Consistent dead-heading will keep the flowers coming.
More gardeners in Colorado should grow lavender! This amazing plant is a gem, as long as you meet a few of its basic needs. Those needs include at least six hours of full sun, very well-drained soil, and deep, but infrequent watering. How tough is that?
There are several varieties of perennial lavender that are well-suited for Colorado gardens. They’ll be featured at Tagawa’s annual “Lavender Fields Forever” event on July 14th. We’ll have free classes and lots of advice on how to grow this delightful herb.
Tagawa’s Herb Department offers some varieties of annual lavender that are lovely, too, but definitely not hardy here. All varieties of lavender are attractive to butterflies.
Sage or salvia is one of the largest families of flowers that make great additions to Colorado gardens. The array of colors among the different varieties is amazing, including vibrant reds, salmon, purple and white.
The picture above is a tiny hairstreak butterfly visiting some Meadow sage in my backyard. Sage is another workhorse of a plant that the butterflies just love.
Sage varieties that attract butterflies include the tough Russian sage, often planted along roadsides. It can be aggressive and should be planted where its wandering ways won’t created a problem. Many other varieties of more well-mannered sage are available at Tagawa’s and are every bit as attractive to butterflies and bees.
“Sweet” it is, indeed. Alyssum is one of the best annuals to plant to attract butterflies and honey bees. The fragrance is soft and rich. I think it actually smells like honey!
These oh-so-tiny flowers come in white, purple and pink. Give alyssum a haircut after each flush of blossoms begins to fade. cutting the plants back by about half. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll be rewarded with more flowers.
Alyssum will thrive in morning sun, but appreciates some afternoon shade. It will not do well in soggy conditions. It’s great as a border plant or a “spiller” in containers.
A lot of the gardeners on the Tagawa staff consider zinnias one of the best flowers to plant when you want a real workhorse in your garden. The fact that it’s so attractive to butterflies in a bonus!
Zinnias love the heat (as I wrote in last week’s blog), and come in an amazing array of colors and heights. They’re excellent in mass plantings in beds, especially where conditions are too tough for fussier plants.
Zinnias respond to regular pinching to keep the foliage bushy and full. These tough plants are magnets for butterflies but deter the bunnies and deer. Well done zinnias!
Verbena is a wonderful and often under-appreciated plant. It comes as a tall, elegant annual called Verbena Bonariensis. Another variety is a much shorter ground cover, Verbena candensis “Homestead purple,” which is a tender perennial here.
Both types of verbena have tiny flowers that appear as single, beautiful blossoms from a distance. The tube-shape of the little flowers and the nectar it holds are difficult for many other pollinators to reach but just purr-fect for the long proboscis of butterflies!
Be sure to deadhead the blossoms as they fade for a continuous show all summer long.
The different varieties of coreopsis or “tickseed” should have a place in every Front Range garden. They’re tough, sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants that will bloom all summer long when faithfully deadheaded.
Classic forms of coreopsis are usually yellow or combinations of yellow and rust, red or orange. The different varieties and daisy-like blossoms can be quite large or small and airy. They’re all perennial and make a beautiful, bold statement in any garden.
If you’re interested in planting a butterfly-friendly garden, come to see us at Tagawa’s. Ask for our list of butterfly plants in our Perennials Department. It’s a great way to invite some of Mother’s Natures loveliest creatures to make your yard a butterfly oasis!