hummingbird butterfly garden layout recommendations

Ed36March 22, 2013

The above picture is the best I have right now. I am looking to create a butterfly / hummingbird garden on top of the landscaping tie wall shown in the picture. I do have a butterfly bush below the wall in the corner near some stairs. The top of the wall is lined with arborvitaes for privacy. The wall runs directly North to South so once the sun climbs over the arborvitaes in the AM I get brutal hot sun almost to sunset. The area I am looking at is about 100 feet long and depending were you are looking the slope runs 8 - 15 feet wide. I am looking to use perennials and it is a large area so in order not to break the bank it will probably be a work in progress over the next few years. I would appreciate recommendations on what to use and were to plant them

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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

State and county you live in will help with the recommendations. If we know where you live, we will know which butterflies are in your area so we can recommend host plants. Will also help with native plant recommendations.

For less specific recommendations, there are lots of threads here about the same topic. I linked an example below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plants to attract Butterflys and/or Hummingbirds.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 3:05PM
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With that much area (~1000 square feet), you may indeed be able to slow down any butterflies that now cruise through your yard without stopping, by having a butterfly garden.

You do need to figure out what kind of butterflies you see in your neighborhood and what their peak weeks or months are and select nectar plants that will be blooming then.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:45PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

What a great project! I would recommend starting with lots of annuals to fill the space early, and fill in with perennials as time and funds allow. Wintersowing is an excellent and inexpensive way to grow lots of plants quickly from seed. And I'm sure you could get lots of donated seeds from those of us who want to help the butterflies.

Milkweed is a great plant to start with. Many different varieties that are hosts for Monarchs, but also provide excellent nectar for all kinds of butterflies and other beneficial insects. Then the insects will attract birds and you'll have a nature habitat. Even tiny seedlings can attract Monarchs, because they like to lay eggs where there aren't as many predators patrolling the blossoms. Zinnias are great annuals that provide nectar all summer. There is an annual, tropical milkweed that you could get blossoms from this year, Asclepias currasavica.

I look forward to more details and to pictures as the project takes shape.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 9:45AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Tropical milkweed, AKA Asclepias currasavica, is not an annual in zone 7. It is a perennial at my house which is zone 6a.

Tropical milkweed has been shown to disrupt the migration of monarchs. Some populations in Texas and South Carolina don't bother going to Mexico anymore and may no longer travel north in the spring.

My suggestion is no one in US should plant the stuff. Stick with the native milkweeds.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:16PM
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Other suggestions are Everlasting (Anaphalis) and Pussytoes (Antennaria) for the American Lady. Find out which species are native to your region.
Globe Thistle and Hollyhocks/ Mallows for the Painted Lady,
Native Nettles in your area-out of the way, of course, for the Red Admiral. You can also use false nettles.
Fennel, for the Black Swallowtail and/or Anise Swallowtail.
Pipevine and Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia), if you're lucky enough to have the Pipevine Swallowtail in your area.
Snapdragons for the Buckeye.
This will provide your host plant for most of the butterflies found across most of North America.
For nectar, you can't beat Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Mexican Sunflower, Zinnias, Liatris and Cosmos.
For Hummingbirds, Salvias of all kinds, Cypress Vine, Honeysuckle native to your area, and Butterfly Bush.
And of course, don't forget all those feeders...

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 4:51PM
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KC, you make an interesting point about Monarchs hanging around all winter because of Tropical Milkweed.
Got me thinking.....
What if something happened to the Monarchs in Mexico during winter? Their overwintering habitat shrinks by the day and we can't do anything about that. But we may be able to keep another population going as sort of a reserve in case God forbid...
Wouldn't Asclepias currasavica be a good thing to grow?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 2:21PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

Monarchs are not endangered. They live in many places across the world. The continental US has populations in California and Florida that do not participate in the migration to Mexico. So, even if the whole overwintering population went up in smoke, there are still many monarchs out there.

Went to see Flight of the Butterflies 3D today. Awesome movie. Shows why the monarchs are so special to us: the migration.

In the movie, they called the butterflies that fly south to Mexico the "Super Generation." They depend on stored fat to survive the migration and the winter in Mexico.

Scientists have shown that monarchs raised on tropical milkweed develop quicker and weigh less. Their hypothesis is migrating butterflies that were raised on tropical milkweed are less likely to be able to live through the migration, especially if weather conditions are less than ideal. Whether their hypothesis can ever be proven remains to be seen but I'm buying the hypothesis and believe it is another reason not to plant tropical milkweed.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 8:09PM
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I wonder how many other Asclepias spp affect the Monarchs this way. Are you familiar c A. physocarpus Oscar? I was thinking of trying this one but now I have trepidations...

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 3:42AM
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mary_littlerockar(8a-7b mid Arkansas)

I wonder if it's better to do nothing if one cannot always provide the 'best'. Would that be better than providing what you can raise and hope some are strong enough to survive? In my growing area, except for the native butterfly weed, most of my other mw varieties have declined drastically by the fall migration. I have, in the past, fed the fall monarch cats with what I had on hand, which was almost always tropical mw. Now, with the success of Oscar in my area, I was able to feed my fall cats last fall with Oscar. Tropical mw also is still blooming in the fall, which provides much needed nectar at this time of the year.

My feeling, do the best you can. If the preferred mw will survive your summers and be available for the fall migration, then provide it. If not, do the best you can and hope some of the little jewels survive for the next generation.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:41AM
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Absolutely. And for the folks in SoFla: There is a species of Giant milkweed (Calotropsis gigantea) that grows 8' tall x 8' wide. It'll feed a lot of cats, Queens (Danaus gilippus), too!! That far south, I've even seen some Tropic Queens (Danaus eresimus)
Also, there's White Vine (Sarcostemma clausum), which is salt tolerant and satisfies all three Danaus species. White Vine is also native to Florida.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:19AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

The northern migration supposedly happens because the monarchs are moving north as milkweed develops. They are following the development of the crop they need. When the weather turns and the milkweed is in decline, the monarchs head south for Mexico. They are sexual diapause. Under normal circumstances, they are not going to find any fresh milkweed to entice them to stop, mate, and lay eggs. But we don't have normal circumstances anymore since we are planting non-native milkweeds that are still in good shape during the southern migration.

The monarchs migrating south do not milkweed. They need nectar plants that are flowering at that time. In my neck of the woods, goldenrod seems to be their favorite wild choice.

To me, planting plants that are native to your area takes the guesswork out of the whole situation.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 5:51PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

An acquaintance of mine wrote a small article on why planting native plants in Ohio is a good idea. It is at the top of page 10. The paragraph titled "Why Should I Use Native Plants in My Yard?" is info I'm guessing most of us have seen but may need a refresher on.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Central Ohio Sierran - April/June 2013

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 12:24PM
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