by Lisa Watters-Lain, Arizona’s garden gal, Watters Garden Center
Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures in the landscape. A butterfly garden is an easy way to see more butterflies and help them, since many local habitats have been lost to human activities like building homes and roads. It is easy to increase the number and variety of butterflies in your yard. Simply grow the plants butterflies like to feed on!
Because so many butterflies snack on the same plants your hummingbirds enjoy, so much the list of preferred butterfly-attracting plants work equally well to bring more hummingbirds into the gardens. You win two-fold when actively drawing butterflies into your landscape.
The butterfly garden is full of activity now through fall. Yellow sulphurs alight on coneflower, while burnt-orange skippers jostle with bumblebees on oregano and lavender. Monarchs, on their long journey to their winter grounds in Mexico, stop to rest and take nectar from asters and other late-blooming flowers. The bright yellow blossoms of goldenrod are especially favored by swallowtails and painted ladies. A host of beneficial insects and birds looking for an insect meal snack through your gardens at the same time.
Purple cone flower and globe thistle attract butterflies through September, forming handsome seed heads that eventually feed your birds. Autumn Joy Sedums draw butterflies to dusty-pink blossoms, which darken to form a dramatic accent in late fall and winter. Ornamental grasses often change color in the fall and form interesting seed heads. Skipper caterpillars feed on grasses and may spend winter at the base of the plants.
Hot lips sage — This two-toned flower looks as though garden fairies have dabbed each white bloom with raspberry lipstick so the dozens of flowers actually blow kisses in a mountain breeze. The flowers are utterly irresistible to local butterflies and a quick pick-me-up for migrating hummingbirds. Here is the best part … javalina and rabbits find this knee-high perennial absolutely repugnant! There are so many colors to choose from that many gardeners collect them like some might collect roses or daylily. Available in several forms of red, pink, white and purple. Each is so hardy they naturalize once established.
Hummingbirds ingest half their weight in food every day. Flowering plants provide the nectar, and tiny insects provide the protein busy hummingbirds need to keep going. Hummingbirds visit a large array of plants, but especially enjoy any plants that display a tubular shaped flower that is brightly colored. Strategically place a feeder surrounded by these suggested plants and enjoy as more and more humming visitors attend the banquet.
Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine is a local hummingbird all-time favorite. Clusters of deeper red 4-inch flowers cover the plant. Expect lightning-quick coverage up a trellis to mask old fences and sheds, or accent a beautiful courtyard wall. Hummingbirds find this stunning vine absolutely irresistible. Plant more Balboa Sunsets and you will have more hummingbirds, guaranteed.
Diversity is the key to an active landscape full of hummingbird antics and more butterflies at rest in your gardens. Provide them food and housing and the number of visitors to the garden grows each season. A detailed listing of local butterfly and hummingbird plants is available free for the asking to my garden readers. Simply ask for the garden guide titled “Plants that Attract Butterflies & Hummers” for a detailed list of local plants.
Until next issue, I’ll be helping locals attract more butterflies here at Watters Garden Center.
Lisa Watters-Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott or contacted through her web site at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.