need help avoiding hybrids

bedford8a(8a)June 16, 2011

I live near Ft. Worth and have been disappointed by some of the plants I chose for my butterfly/hummingbird garden. I planted the garden in late 2009 and had a beautiful spring display this year. However, the butterflies really didn't go for my pentas, echinacea, rudbekia or lantanas. I worry that the plants, some which I raised from seed, are so hybridized that they've lost all benefits for wildlife.

I recently read that the pentas on the market nowadays are only good as a host plant, not a nectar plant. What about the others? Which lantanas, coneflowers and black-eyed susans can I plant which will be beneficial to butterflies as nectar plants?

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You definitely have more butterfly species down south but here it seems that the bright yellow color of rudbeckia is the only thing that attracts butterflies. I never seem them nectaring on it.

I haven't had a lot of experience with hummingbirds but added more plants for them this spring. An annual that many butterflies AND hummers liked last summer was Mexican Sunflowers (Torch Tithonia)

I'll defer the rest of your questions to someone with zone 8 experience. Good luck, Tony

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 5:23PM
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mechelle_m(z9 TX)

I live in Houston and I had a similar problem, too many times a plant is recommended for a host plant, but not the specific species. Just because you find a pipevine plant, doesn't mean that it is for the pipevine swallowtail. Fortunately, there is lots of information on this website about the specific plants butterflies need for host plants.

If you are buying your seeds, the description should say if it is a hybrid or not on the label. At least the vegetable seeds do. If you go to the nursery, watch to see which plants attract the butterflies and purchase accordingly. Sometimes, you can even find eggs on the host plants, if you are lucky enough.

With the drought we are experiencing here in Houston, the butterflies have not been around. My milkweeds are lush and full of leaves just waiting for the monarchs and queens to visit. As well as the senna, fennel, parsley, passionvine and dill, though it is on its last legs, the heat is doing it in.

A dependable nectar plant/tree/shrub is the duranta. If you keep it pruned, it will be a large shrub. It attracts hummers as well and seems to be a magnet for the butterflies. The Mexican Sunflowers are a good choice for a nectar plant as well. It is an annual.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 5:53PM
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So much depends on your location, too. Try going to neighbor's floriferous yards, botanical gardens, butterfly gardens, native plant displays, and some nurseries with plants outdoors to see what is attracting butterflies in your area.

I have advised/been advised of both nectar and host plants, only to be disappointed that they didn't attract anything, not even a "bad bug"..... I also have been equally pleased with butterfly plants. If you have a native plant society or know of nurseries that sell natives, go and observe there especially.

Echinaceas are kind of iffy. I ask people who grow or have grown various species and hybrids about the ones that work for them.

Annuals are a good bet, as Tithonia aka Mexican Sunflower, mentioned above. Zinnias, Tropical Milkweed, Verbena bonariensis, and Cosmos, are pretty sure bets.

Duranta may work very well in your location, but for me, further North, nothing was attracted to it.

Check out the Dallas County Lep Society for host plant info. They are pretty spot on, if you know the most common butterflies found in your area.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 7:46PM
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