Boston Area - Annuals that Reseed.

dbrull(5)September 3, 2013

hi, I am going to be trying to maintain a garden in the Boston area that belonged to my mother-in-law. The request from family and neighbors is to make sure it is butterfly friendly.

I would like to introduce annuals that reseed well in this climate. Im reading that it is zone 5a-6a. ( Wakefield MA ).

The garden gets partial shade to full sun. It won't be watered too often other than rain.

thanks for any suggestions.

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If you are trying to attract butterflies with annuals, the obvious thing to plant is milkweed (Asclepias). Usually more a weed, but there are a zillion varieties, and it is all monarch butterflies eat. Check out the "adopt a milkweed newbie" topic on Garden Web.

They aren't annuals, but Echinacia, New England Aster, Black Eyed Susans, and Wild Bergamot are great for butterflies and may spread.

I think Wakefield is more Zone 6 then 5.

This post was edited by edlincoln on Tue, Sep 3, 13 at 19:20

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 6:39PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

My first thought was echinacea, although not an annual. Mine reseed (a little too much for me - I try to deadhead at least half of them now to limit reseeding) but this year the butterflies just swarmed them!

I have a lot of butterflies near my zinnias as well, but honestly, I've never had a single zinnia reseed for me! But IMO, they are definitely worth growing every year.

Good luck with your garden!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 10:30PM
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Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, is a no-brainer, IMHO. I have the straight species, all volunteers, and lots of them, because I let this plant grow wherever it sows itself. The brilliant orange isn't to everyone's taste, but I love it.

Down here in zone 7, Verbena bonariensis reseeds (a little too much) and butterflies love it. Not sure how prolific it is in colder areas, but the key is to not be too vigilant with weeding and mulching, I guess. Not annuals, both Russian sage (Perovskia) and Caryopteris reseed here, too. All of these do well with no supplemental water, once established.

One thing to remember is that if you want butterflies, you have to put up with caterpillars - so you have to be extremely careful dealing with any kind - including gypsy moths and winter moths. If you absolutely need to use controls on those pests, you have to stick to the types that must be eaten to be effective.

Isn't there a butterfly gardening forum on this site? There might be some good info there, as well - although I remember seeing a lot of photos on this forum showing great butterfly gardens. You might want to use the search feature, and just search NE gardening. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 1:04PM
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asarum(z6 Boston)

It has been years since i planted white alyssum, but it turns up in large quantities.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 6:20PM
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I planted portulaca once and it has come back (reseeded itself) for five years! I don't know about butterflies but it sure is nice to see something come back each year with minimal work!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 9:31PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Aside from the Asclepias tuberose that DtD mentioned, I am unfamiliar with 'reseeding' annuals that attract butterflies, but I haven't been focused on doing that. I have tried to include plants that butterflies like, but those I have are not necessarily annuals that reseed. Parsley is an herb that some butterflies use and I do grow that. It is a biennial though. You can grow it from seed and it will provide foliage that can be used in cooking that first year, then I leave it in place here in zone 6 and some years it winters over and sometimes it doesn't. The second year, it produces a flower and seed which you can collect and keep it going that way. Then there is the annual zinnia that butterflies seem to like, as Dee mentioned, but I've never had it reseed either. But, it is very easy to start from seed every year. It germinates in a week or less I think and will keep blooming all season to the Fall.

As for annuals that reseed, poppies, columbine are two that I use. Like debra, I sowed portulaca once and I still get some coming back every year. Oh, California poppies have reseeded very well for me. And Lunaria is another biennial, that blooms in late spring, drops seed later in the season, which germinates and starts a new plant that blooms the next spring.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Cosmos self sow for me. In fact the self sown ones seem to do better than the ones that I try to start from seed.

Feverfew (perennial) and rudbeckia (biennial) also self sow rampantly in my gardens.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 6:12PM
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terrene(5b MA)

The annuals that the butterflies like the best in my gardens are generally tropical plants - tall Zinnias (like State Fair and Cut & Come Again), Tithonia, Tropical milkweed, and Cosmos bipinnatus. They also like Verbena bonariensis and the Safari Bolero marigolds.

Most of these don't reseed for me, except the Verbena bonariensis and the Cosmos. Generally I have to start them from seed each year, but it is easy to do. Zinnias are particularly easy to direct sow (with a little protection from slugs if necessary when they're small).

Some annuals will reseed, especially if you don't use mulch - like Cleome, Cal. poppies, Rudbeckia, etc. but the large and showy butterflies don't nectar on these much.

PS if you're interested in hummingbirds, you can't go wrong with assorted Salvias!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 1:40AM
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As others have said, many perennials will attract butterflies, so don't forget them. Gardenweed does wintersowing of perennials and there is a forum for wintersowing here on gardenweb, so consider that as an inexpensive way to get perennials that the butterflies like.

Self-seeding annuals in my garden that butterflies like include Verbena bonariensis and Nicotiana. Dill will self-seed and many butterflies like it, though it is not as lovely as some other flowers, it is valuable for nectar and as food for the caterpillars.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2013 at 11:08AM
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