Dreaming of a landscape which provides a home for hummingbirds and butterflies? With a little planning, patience and effort it is very possible. When food, water, shelter and nesting sites are available the wildlife will find their way to your yard.
For a successful butterfly garden you have to remember to provide food sources for both the caterpillars as well as the adults.
This is as easy as just letting the naturally wild "weeds" alone. Food sources for caterpillars are Plantain, Wild carrot, Violets, Milkweeds, and Nettles. Trees such as the Sassafras, Willow, Cherry, Tulip Poplar, and bushes such as Roses and Spicebush are often in the natural landscape anyway.
Early spring arrivals include violets, nettles and,dandelions.
|Joe Pye Weed|
Butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa) is a butterfly magnet growing in zones 3-9, getting about 2' tall, and likes full sun. Drought resistant, if this plant likes where it is planted it will be trouble free for years. The Asclepius family of plants is an important food source for both caterpillars and adults, particularly the Monarch butterflies.
|Keys of Heaven|
Pretty pink Phlox (Phlox paniculata) is a must for both butterflies and hummingbirds.
They grow in zones 4-5, get 18-24 inches tall and like full sun. For the best show these plants do best in mass plantings.
Monarda or Beebalm will happily naturalize if you let it. These dark pink to magenta flowers love full sun, grow in zones 4-8 and will reach about 4 ' tall. Loved by birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies alike.
Honeysuckle with its tubular flowers are loved by visiting hummingbirds. Just offer a trellis or some structure for them to grow with lots of sun and they'll do well.
For late summer some wonderful considerations to include are the American native Coneflowers (Echinacea), Asters, Sedums and Tithonia (Mexican sunflowers).
|New England Asters|
Even if you don't intend to plant a vegetable garden, consider the Scarlet Emperor Pole Bean. These climbing beans need some type of support as they can climb 8-10'. This pretty annual will provide large 6-8" fuzzy beans which are certainly edible, but often people grow them for their scarlet-orange flowers which are a draw for hummingbirds.
|Scarlet Emperor Pole Bean|
These are just a few of the many options you have as a homeowner wanting to be more in tune with your natural environment and help these little creatures survive. What's more I haven't had too much of a problem with deer bothering the above plants. As long as they have the right conditions they do fine. As far as maintenance, these perennials do need to be cut back in the Fall after frost. I do let the Butterfly Bush alone until late Spring and cut back till I see green growth. Some types die back all the way to the ground.
Of the above, the Coneflowers and Beebalm will spread if given the chance. Even the Butterfly Bush will pop up here and there if you let it.
The best way to learn is by doing. Keep notes on what does best in what location. Expect to lose some as you learn. I transplanted many a time to see if a plant will do better somewhere else, as well as had to spend money a second time around. Perennials need 2-3 years to establish their roots before they can put forth their full energy above the ground. Be patient and just enjoy the life and energy.