Best nectar plants in your garden?

tom123_gw(9b)May 9, 2014

This morning I watched a Red Admiral, a Giant Swallowtail, several Zebra Longwings and Monarchs and a Gulf Fritillary using my red pentas. This flower is the absolute best nectar plant in my garden. Every butterfly that uses flowers for nectar will use the red pentas. The ones I have all came from a butterfly/nature nursery near my house. They grow very large--over four feet and about three feet wide if they have enough water and fertilizer.

They are easy to grow from cuttings. I'm a bit laid up now, but when healthy I'm usually growing cuttings. The hummingbirds also like this plant.

The other plant that comes in a close second is the large purple porterweed. (Stachytarpheta frantzii). Like the pentas these plants don't need to be deadheaded and they are ever-blooming. Again, the hummingbirds like this plant as well. Due to the mild winters we have had in Central Florida I have some that are over twelve feet tall now and still growing.

I understand that these plants don't overwinter in most of your zones, but if you are looking for annuals that will start blooming from the moment you plant them until the first frost these two are winners.

I'd like to hear which plants do best in your gardens.

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Porterweed and pentas are great nectar plants here, too, Tom. Pentas never overwinter for me, so I plant them each year, and my coral porterweed, which normally comes back in spring, didn't show any life this year, so I dug it up - we had the hardest freeze we've had in 20 years in January. I've got some rose-colored pentas, but no porterweed this year - I may order a coral porterweed before the year is over. My coral porterweed got to be about ?6' or 7' tall, but never 12' - that's amazing!

In addition to the two you mentioned, Asclepias curassavica is a big draw, also Buddleia davidii/butterfly bush and whatever type butterfly bush 'Orange Septre' is are popular, 'Orange Septre' being especially popular with hummingbirds. Salvia guaranitica and turk's cap/Malvaviscus drummondii are popular with cloudless suphurs as well as hummingbirds. Lantana is probably the most consistently popular, because I have a BIG one that blooms continually in summer and fall.

There are other things that get visits here and there, like asters, echinacea/coneflower, and various wildflowers, like mistflower, but the ones I mentioned are the best here.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 9:26PM
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Leafhead

I had the same experience with both Pentas and Porter of all colors while living in Broward County, Florida. There was also another plant in my Florida garden, Russelia sarmentosa, that was also a huge draw with the butterflies and hummers alike.

John

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 9:39PM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

The Russelia sarmentosa is supposed to be a host plant for Buckeyes. I love plants that do double duty.

Brazilian Verbena, Cardinal Flower (hummers and swallowtails), Catmint (Nepta), asters, goldenrods, purple coneflower, Mexican Sunflower, zinnias, cosmos, ...

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 10:30PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Oops, Runmede's post reminded me of Mexican sunflower. I've got some coming up from seed, and I'll be planting them out soon. They're among the most popular butterfly flowers in my garden when I plant them.

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 12:25AM
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joncongaroo(Phoenix(Ahwatukee)AZ)

These continue to bloom even at 115 degrees : Red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Lantana, Yellow Mexican sunflower (Tithonia fruticosa), and Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii, aka Eupatorium greggii).

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 4:11PM
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Leafhead

Tom,
Have you tried Cestrum diurnum in your garden? It attracts only male butterflies, including those who don't usually visit flowers.
It's also a Florida native and is tolerant of poor soil and some salt.
It grows as a medium size shrub to small tree and blooms every month throughout the year. I had wonderful success with this plant :)

John

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 4:54PM
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tom123_gw(9b)

John, I have this plant! Didn't know the name of it other than white cestrum. I had it in a pot near my office window for a year or so and kept clipping in when it got too big. It is now planted in the yard and has grown quite a bit.

I purchased this at a plant sale and I remember the man telling me that the hummingbirds loved it. That was enough for me. The flowers are very fragrant. I love getting a sniff of it when I leave my front door.

I must say that I haven't seen anything visiting it yet. It isn't in a place where I can observe it easily.

Primarily male butterflies? How is that possible? What kind of butterflies, John?

I have a number of yellow cestrum growing in the back of my property near the pool. They are now over ten feet tall and attract the occasional butterfly or hummingbird. They are competing with the Hamelia Patens, which is a favorite of Zebra Longwings and Sulphurs--and also hummingbirds.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 9:10PM
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Leafhead

Cestrum diurnum nectar contains alkaloids that males use to make sex pheromones with. I have seen all kinds of butterflies, including Malachites, Ruddy Daggerwings, Monarchs, Longwings and all kinds of Swallowtails.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 2:18AM
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tom123_gw(9b)

Who knew? I will keep a closer watch on this plant now. It is growing quite tall, but not easy for me to see from the house.

Thanks, John.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 8:50AM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

"In addition to the above food sources, males are attracted to Heliotropium, Eupatorium, Senecio, and Crotalaria, plants known to contain the alkaloid lycopsamine. The alkaloid and other precursor compounds from these plants are used to create pheromones used to attract mates.[2] Pheromone precursors are predominantly obtained from Boraginaceae, Asteraceae, and Fabaceae."

Here is a link that might be useful: Queen Males collect chemicals for mating

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:19AM
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tom123_gw(9b)

Runmede, can you tell me what flowers specifically should be used to attract the Queens and other males? I have all sorts of flowers, but I get very few Queens. I have tons of Monarchs, and lots of milkweed.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:32AM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

"Larval Host Plants: Herbaceous plants (Apocynaeae)��"Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) including Pineland Milkweed (Asclepias humistrata), White Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias perennis), Pink Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata); Vines��"White Twinvine (Sarcostemma clausum) and Florida Milkvine (Matelea floridana)"

Here is a link that might be useful: Butterfly Gardening in Florida

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:54AM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

"Adult Food: Nectar from flowers including milkweeds, fogfruit, and shepherd's needle."

I like to do research on the Butterfly and Moth website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Queen Butterfly Information

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:57AM
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joncongaroo(Phoenix(Ahwatukee)AZ)

Here in Arizona male Queen butterflies are strongly attracted to Eupatorium (Conoclinium) greggii and Conoclinium betonicifolium.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 3:48PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

What a great picture!

Sherry

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 6:14PM
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tom123_gw(9b)

Jon, when I researched that plant it said that it only grew in Texas and Arizona, which leads me to think that it must thrive in hot, dry weather. Here in Central Florida it is hot and humid with lots of rain in the summer months. It might not do well here.

I agree with Sherry, very nice picture.

All of a sudden I have "White Twinvine (Sarcostemma clausum) growing all over the garden. It is borderline invasive. Let's see if it attracts Queens.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 6:03AM
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runmede(7a Virginia)

White Twinvine also attracts Soldiers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Information on Soldiers

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 9:54AM
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tom123_gw(9b)

When I looked at the map it showed Central Florida as one of the ares that soldiers have been reported in.

If I ever see one I'm sure I won't be able to distinguish it from a Queen. I'd have to take a picture of it and post it here.

I do have a willow, I believe its a Black Willow, (Salix nigra) to attract viceroys. I have seen a few of them in the past few years.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 8:10PM
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Leafhead

There are a couple immediate differences between Soldiers and Queens.
One is size; Queens are larger. Another is wing shape. Queens have longer wings whereas Soldiers are proportioned more like Monarchs.

John

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 5:45AM
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