Butterflies are attracted to many different perennials

Backyard Q&A

In the Garden

May 02, 2004|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

I am planning a new perennial garden and would like to include plants that attract butterflies. Could you recommend some?

There are a many good plants that can be used to attract and keep butterflies in your garden. Because there are so many, I will recommend a few and then suggest you do some further reading. Remember that these insects hatch from eggs into caterpillars, and then pupate before they become adult butterflies. To keep them in your garden area, you will need to ensure that they have a home and food for their entire life cycle. Your garden should be planted in a sunny location that is protected from strong winds. Also, it would be helpful if the garden had a few rocks.

Some common perennial plants that attract butterflies are aster, bee balm, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, coreopsis, day lily, phlox, sedum, Shasta daisy and yarrow. If you would like to use native plants, I suggest reading a pamphlet by the Maryland Native Plant Society, "Using Native Plants to Attract Butterflies." It is available through the society's Web site, www.mdflora.org. A more general publication, "Butterfly Gardening," is available through the University of Nebraska Web site, www.unl.edu.

I have a patio hibiscus tree that I am preparing to set out for the summer. Should I prune it now or wait till next fall before I bring it in for the winter?

Many gardeners cut their hibiscus trees back before they bring them in for the winter. This reduces the plant size so they better fit their smaller winter quarters, but it can be very stressful to plants. The pruning stimulates them to grow at a time when they naturally want to slow their growth for the winter. Therefore, it would be best to prune your hibiscus in early spring before its new growth cycle naturally begins.

Because you are a little behind, I recommend setting your plant out now and pruning it as soon as possible. Be sure to fertilize your tree and keep it well watered through the growing season. Hibiscus blooms on new wood, so it will take a few more weeks for your plant to get blooming, but once it starts, you will be rewarded with flowers until next fall.

Checklist

1. Plant "baby food" for butterflies. The caterpillars of swallowtails feed on parsley, fennel and dill, and monarchs feed on butterfly weed (Asclepias).

2. Avoid rabbit damage in the vegetable garden by erecting a 3-foot-high wire mesh fence that extends several inches below ground level.

3. Newly planted grass seed must be kept moist or it will not germinate. When we do not have rain, water the seed daily.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.hgic.umd.edu.

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