Hello fellow readers, Many of you like to dance! Jane from Mt. Bethel, PA, emailed me about the fun of watching butterflies in her garden and asked how to attract more. Ben from Belvidere, NJ, wondered if he planted butterfly loving plants, would he be inviting deer to the party. It turns out there are several butterfly magnets not adored by Bambi.
Unlike hummingbirds that can hover, butterflies need to cling to blossoms to feed and prefer daisy-type flowers and clusters or spikes of small flowers. I’ve had great luck with Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum maximum) even though classified as ‘occasionally severely damaged’ on the Rutgers Plants Rated by Deer Resistance. Knock on wood as deer preferences change and can vary drastically by neighborhood.
A few obvious butterfly seducers include Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), a fast-growing, deciduous shrub that reaches 6 to 8 feet in height with arching purple, pink or white flowers. Some consider Butterfly Bush invasive, though there are sterile varieties.
There are lovely native plants such as Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa); also loved but not by deer. Butterfly Weed takes a while to establish, but their bright orange flowers are worth the wait. It might be obvious that a plant named Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) would attract bees. Its tufts of red, pink, or purple flowers on the tops of tall stems are just as good at attracting butterflies.
In its glory, this time of year is Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), a well-known medicinal plant with large purple flowers with drooping petals. Plus, there’s Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida), a glorious golden North American native that blooms from summer to frost.
Others for your late summer butterfly shopping list include Stokes’ Aster ( Stokesia laevis), Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), and of course Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). My number one favorite, because he stands a majestic 6 feet tall and has a fluffy flower head, is Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium). While native in shady wetland areas, I’ve successfully planted this good old boy in full sun.
The nifty thing is most of these butterfly magnets are in their glory right now. So fill in your bald spots (in your garden, that is), dig in, and dance!
Garden dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
column updated 11/12/20
For a special treat, click through to a recent column, A Butterfly Garden of Growth.