Three Perennials to Attract Butterflies
Butterflies are creatures of habit. Once they emerge from their cocoons, they immediately look forblooms to supply them with nectar. All butterflies prefer sunny open spaces, like meadows and prairies. Likewise, some of the most popular butterfly plants are meadow and prairie natives.
The most popular butterfly plant is Asclepias, the family of butterfly weeds and milkweeds. Many different types of adult butterflies will feed on butterfly weed blooms even though gardeners plant them, especially for Monarchs. You see, the Monarch caterpillars that feed on the milky sap of milkweed do not get eaten by other creatures. All species of Asclepias will host Monarchs, though the species A. tuberosa is one of their favorites and makes a great statement for the meadow bed and the dry perennial border.
Butterfly weeds are attractive, native perennials with compact green leaves and red to orange to yellow flowers. This year Van Wilgen’s has the cultivar A. ‘Hello Yellow’ with clear yellow flowers.
Another popular prairie native is the family of Echinaceas or the coneflowers. Coneflowers are great choices for the sunny perennial border. Their flower petals are called ray florets and they radiate from the flower’s central cone. We call them daisies and we see pinks, yellows, and reds; butterflies see bullseyes, targets that help them zero in on the flower’s nectar-rich cones. Dozens of butterflies are attracted to Echinaceas, like Skippers, Mourning Cloaks, and Swallowtails. We like the ‘Pow Wow’ Echinacea series at Van Wilgen’s with their easy culture and long-blooming season and a customer fan-favorite is the many-colored variety ‘Cheyenne Spirit.’
A third pick is the family of Monardas, collectively known as bee balms; some of the best perennials for pollinators. Beebalm flowers attract many species of butterflies, as well as honey bees and hummingbirds. Butterflies love Monardas for their colorful and sweetly scented flowers but are not so attracted to their pungent foliage. Gardeners love Monardas for their easy culture and long bloom season. When choosing varieties, choose the darker colors, like the reds of ‘Marshall’s Delight’ or ‘Jacob Cline.’ Butterflies see these colors better. Beebalms will bloom over the course of the summer which covers many different generations of butterflies.
Butterflies are attracted to masses of flowers. Remember this when you make your selections. Always look for long-blooming varieties and plants with prolific blooms. Stop by our garden center and garden marts for these picks and even more great plants to add to your butterfly haven. We’re here to help, both you and the butterflies.