Mass planting of a single color for butterflies?

christie_sw_mo(Z6)November 16, 2010

I'm starting to realize what a difference it makes to have a large area of a single color, single plant, to attract butterflies. I'd read this before several times but it took awhile to sink in I guess.

I've noticed as my verbena bonariensis has spread into a bigger patch every year that it has become more attractive. The first year I had it, I had four plants, and the butterflies completely ignored it. I was disappointed. But as the patch grows, the butterflies get thicker every year.

I'm almost sure that's why my Scarlet Flame zinnias were a butterfly magnet this summer. Not because it had better nectar than my other scattered zinnias, or that it was a special color, but because I had a big patch of a SINGLE color to draw them in.

I don't think it's just that I have more butterflies every year. My pentas and lantana didn't get much action this summer but I suspect if I had a BIG patch of those instead of just a few, the butterflies would be flocking to them.

I'm going to try to keep this in mind this year when I order seeds. Instead of trying several different things, I want to try to plan a couple more big masses of color.

What do you think? What would you plant a lot of? What do you already have a lot of?

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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

I'm in total agreement.

Some of the favorites in my garden are the Aster oblongfolius which is huge; the bed of Gaillardias which has multiplied; and the lantana which has come back bigger and better every year. My small lantana plants are ignored. I didn't have a large area of Tropical MW this year either, and I realized how I need to cultivate a large area next year. And, I need to have a large bed of Golden Crownbeard. I went to a woman's house where Golden Crownbeard was growing everywhere. Never saw so many butterflies in my life, especially Bordered Patches.

Good advice!


    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 10:09AM
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I have Golden Crownbeard seeds if anyone wants some...let's trade! I have it natively on my property & it is interesting that earlier in the summer the BFs all but ignore it until late summer & fall & then it seems to be the number one BF magnet here!
I also have a tall summer phlox that is a huge swallowtail magnet along with my tropical milkweed.
In the new BF garden I am in the process of preparing, I plan on planting flowers bunched together & several varieties of specific BFs host plants in the same vicinity of the bed. For instance, all the varieties of milkweed I plan to be grouped together, the bush clover with purple prairie clover & sensitive plant. All the PL & AL host plants to be grouped together. Pipevines grouped together! BST host plants...2 varieties of Zizias, parsley, fennel, & dill planted in group! All the varieties of sennas I am planning will grouped together, S.lindheimeriana, S. alata, S. corymbosa, & Partridge Pea. I plan on planting all the similar colors together as well because of your suggestion. I know that Cathy(caterwallin 6) plants her gardens in mass! I have been one to plant my flowers scattered out & staggered because of the landscaping appeal...especially in my front yard! But this new bed is strictly for raising BF cats & I plan on planting it in mass plantings, for the first time! I bet we will all be more successful because of this! Thanks for the "heads up!", Christie!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 10:50AM
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Ms. Sandy, I planted a couple of Golden Crownbeard plants at my church. They have been absolutely beautiful this fall and as you say - covered in butterflies. Even after the couple of light freezes we had, there were bunches of skippers on them Sunday and I think I scared off a Hackberry Emperor. Earlier in the fall there were sulphurs, painted ladies, skippers, whites, etc. Needless to say, I will have it back there again next year. One of you ladies - either Sandy or Linda - gave me my first seeds about 3 or 4 years ago. A big THANK YOU for sharing this with me.

Ms. Faith

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 10:51AM
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bandjzmom(7 NWGeorgia)

Good reminder Christie! I am going to make a concerted effort to do the same with my plantings in the spring. I can't wait to see what the outcome is! Thanks for reminding me to do this. ~~Angie

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 8:29PM
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Christie, I'm so glad you posted this because I've been racking my brain trying to remember which Zinnia you planted en masse. Scarlet Flame - gotta remember that cuz your pics were GORGEOUS!

My mass planting of Cosmic Orange Cosmos attracted tons and tons and tons of butterflies this year. Some of them got to 7' tall! Monarchs, Gulf Frits, Swallowtails, Crescents, Checkerspots, skippers, and yes, even hummingbirds and the day flying sphinx moths, loved it. None of the Asters or the Mistflower which usually attracts tons of things in the Fall, could hold a candle to the Cosmos.

But, I've had a patch of it for several years, and the butterflies' favorites tend to change from year to year. One year the Mistflower and Asters were the absolute fave, and another year it was the Tropical Milkweed flowers. Another, the Mexican Sunflowers. Several years it was the Miss Huff Lantana - one plant makes a HUGE patch. I've never had a Lantana that attracted as many butterflies as Miss Huff did. So, I guess it is best to have several patches of different flowers for them because you never know what their preference will be. My 'Miss Huff' didn't make it thru last year's winter, so I need to plant another one in its place because I really missed all the activity on it.

Thanks for everyone's input, and thanks again, Christie, for starting this thread.

Faith, what an ideal plant for the church! Golden Crownbeard virtually needs NO care at all. I aways seem to lose mine when we get a lot of rain. It really likes dry, dry soil. I find the Buckeyes love, love, love this plant, as well as the Verbena bonariensis, which would look nice planted among the Crownbeard, and needs about the same amount of care.

Sandy, I know you're busy, but maybe when you get back, you might post some pics of your garden. I know it must be stunning because your garden is on the garden tour every year,

Christie, I'd love to see a repeat of those photos of your red Zinnias, too, and I really wish Cathy would share some pics with us, too, someday.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 7:43AM
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Susan, are the Crownbeard and V. bonariensis host plants or necctar plants? I really like the buckeyes and have had only snapdragons and a summer snapdragon this year. This is my first year to attempt anything ouside Monarchs
and EBS

I also like the one color concentrated in certain areas.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 4:39PM
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Thanks everyone. : )
Here's some photos as requested Susan. It's cool and rainy here. I don't have anything like this in my yard right now.

Red makes a good background for photographing swallowtails. That first one was the weird Black Swallowtail (I think) that I saw earlier this summer.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 5:19PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

The butterfly garden is pretty large, and since last year (the broken wrists) has gotten kind of out of control. I do have photos on my pbase website that I took this year--mostly of individual plants and the visitors. I'll include a link here to the 2010 pics. I haven't ever been able to get panoramic pictures that really show the flowers.

The garden has only been featured on one Audubon tour. But lots of local Master Gardeners come visit. Also the Monarch Teacher's Network participants came out and toured the garden. 83 species of butterflies have been documented so far. I love to share it!


Here is a link that might be useful: Sandy's Garden

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 7:39PM
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Christie, Red and black are two of my favorite color combinations, and yes, the BSTs look as stunning as your Scarlet Flame zinnia patch! Thanks so much for re-posting your photo. My brain gets so discombobulated trying to recall certain images posted here on the forum, but there are some that are imprinted forever - your Zinnia photo is one of them, as well as MissSherry's Wild Cherry sphinx moth caterpillar, dubbed by her as "Miss Lucy" that was both unique and beautiful to me. Thanks, again!

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy. You've are quite the photographer and butterfly gardener - a wonderful combo! Gorgeous images of two of your garden beauties - the flowers and the butterflies. I would think you might also see the dayflying sphinx moths like the little Nessus and the Snowberry Clearwing, the Eight-Spotted Forester, etc. Do you ever spot them in your garden?

The blue of those flowers on the Baptisia are just spectacular, aren't they? I just wish they lasted longer. But, the plant does its duty in attracting the larvae of the Wild Indigo Duskywings, which I did have pretty much all summer long this year, and some are hibernating now. One of our prettiest wildflower shrubs, huh? Every butterfly gardener should have this plant.

The Aster oblongifolius is a lovely plant in bloom in the fall. Mine bloomed almost too late this year. It is such a thug, though - gotta give it lots and lots of room. It is now about 5' in diameter, and I cut it back by half mid-summer. When it blooms, though, it is just nearly a solid mass of lavendar blue flowers. Good thing about this thug is that it doesn't, or hasn't in my garden, reseed.

Love that new color Echinacea - kinda a peachy color.

I did get the Dianthus - I think it's called Southern Charm - that Steve had at Bustani. Only plant that hasn't bloomed yet, so I hope it blooms next spring. The photo of it looks similar to the color of your Dianthus. It is one of the taller ones - up to 2' tall, and I hope it spreads like crazy.

Thank you for sharing your photos, too!


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 11:09AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)


I get lots of the different moths--have them in the moth gallery. I also have started to see many more dragonflies, so I started a dragonfly gallery! And there's a predator's gallery . . . you get the idea! The critters abound. Thank you for your kind comments.

It was good to talk to you yesterday. I miss our visits, when Mom was on the west side of town. But, I will definitely plan a spring visit next year with lots of plants and seeds to share. I got wooly croton seeds for Goatweeds from Marilyn--13 to be exact. Hope to germinate these and grow them. The plants are so interesting.

2 more days!!!!!


    Bookmark   November 18, 2010 at 12:01PM
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