neighborhood garden for july 4, 2015

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BUTTERFLY PLANTS

by gladys jeurink

 

          I just read a list of the best plants for BUTTERFLIES. We can grow all of them in Nebraska.  The one everyone knows is BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepsis tuberose), a perennial that likes Nebraskaís area. It is a bright orange, almost as well liked as red by HUMMINGBIRDS. It has deep roots that keep it well during hot dry weather.

          During the fall when the tall (up to 5 feet) New England Asters are blooming in full sun, they may be completely covered with PAINTED LADY BUTTERFLIES, SULFURS, and WHITES. I have even seen some in the front parkway where it is hot and dry and has to be cut back by the 4th of July  to keep them under 30 inches as required by city rules.
There are pink, purple, and white ones besides my red and blues.  They have been in the same place for years with little attention. Clumps get a little larger each year. To move them, I dig some from the outside.

          Late spring when I find a bare spot in the yard I can just toss in some ZINNIA seeds and step on them and they will be up in days and blooming within 6 weeks.  Many years ago at age 5 my mother gave me a plat for my own garden plus ZINNIA SEEDS. My favorite now is the short (10 to 12 inches tall) bright orange ones that love to grow in the parkway. You will find SWALLOW TAILS, SKIPPERS, and MONARCHS on ZINNIAS. I put a rock in my bird baths for the BUTTERFLIES to land on and some years remember they like a shallow muddy area with manure for minerals.

          I have written about LANTANAS for the HUMMINGBIRDS. They are also covered with BUTTERFLIES. By this time you probably have guessed I do not spray insecticides or I would lose CRESCENTS & BUCKEYES. They like slightly acid soil so a few granules of horticultural sulphur will keep them happy.

If you need a bright, orange background plus PAINTED LADIES or MONARCH BUTTERLIES the MEXICAN SUNFLOWER (Tithonia rotundifolia) will do. A big rough feeling annual plant wonít come up until it gets fairly warm so plant late. Leaves will turn yellow in a cold spell.  Wind will push the plants so I like them in front of a fence plus several plants to support each other.

          BUTTERFLY BUSHES (Buddleia davidi) name tells the story. They may get up to 10 feet tall and need to be cut back in the spring. The top for me is generally dead so I cut off just above the new growth. Zone 5 is just on the edge of hardiness for these bushes so after a cold dry winter what is left may be very short. Leaving them stand all winter helps to collect snow for wind protection. I have black, purple, pink and white ones. In some states they are listed as invasive. I do have a few seedlings around the yard in pinks.

          PENTAíS, also called STAR FLOWERS (Penta lanceolata) are a short (15inch to 18 inch) annual in Nebraska, with pink, red, or white flowers. They are native to tropical Africa. Some varieties may grow to six feet tall but these are not usually found in the garden centers here in Nebraska. Once they start blooming it is non-stop until frost. They bloom in clusters of long tailed flowers each one 1/2 inch to 1 inch across.  You will find PAINTED LADIES, MONARCH and SWALLOW TAILS like them. They deadhead themselves.

          MARIGOLDS of yellow, gold, and orange are liked by SULPHURS, PEARL CRESCENTS, and SLEEPY ORANGES while filling in bare spots. They are easy to plant. Just throw the seed out in the bare areas and then step on them to make sure they get good contact with the soil. Every garden center will also have many varieties from very short (6 inches to 12 inches) to tall (36 inches). The seeds are large and fun for kids as they come up very soon, grow fast in full sun, and bloom in bright colors of  yellow, orange, red, and reddish-brown. There are singles and doubles. They need to be deadheaded or will stop flowering to produce seed. They all need enough water to prevent wilting when the Spiders move in. Mites and Spiders do not like water so if they are on your plants, just hose them off.

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