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Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflies?

Posted by lunalady 5 (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 16, 09 at 15:52

Hi,
I live in Ohio and I need some suggestions for spring blooming perennials that are the most attractive to butterflies, especially swallowtails. Also, can anyone recommend the best zinnias? Thanks.
Anna


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Well, I live in the deep south and have found that the "CUT AND COME AGAIN" variety of zinna work great here. Just stay away from the "double" variety. And one of my favorite spring flowers is the Stokes Aster. Butterflutter


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Just get zinnias that have a prominent central area, which is where butterflies nectar - the big, rounded zinnias that are all petals and lack centers don't offer any nectar, at least any that's accessible to butterflies.
Other good nectar plants for me are butterfly bush, milkweed, stokes asters, lantana, pentas, porterweed, salvia (especially s. guaranitica), buttonbush (tiger swallowtails love this one!) and turk's cap. I planted some coneflowers because they flocked to other people's plants, but got no visitors at mine.
Here's a picture of an American painted lady on my favorite zinnia, Zowie Yellow Flame -
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Sherry


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 17, 09 at 12:58

Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, blooms in May and June. It is attractive to insects. You don't need a swamp, just a low spot, or a spot that gets extra rainwater from a nearby gutter or roof. They also need lots of sun.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

A good nectar source for spring is amsonia, too. I find them nectaring on a lot of spring lawn weeds early in the season, like dandelions, henbit, etc. Many early flowering shrubs provide nectar sources, too, like Ribes, for instance. It's really hard to come up with good early season sources for nectar. I like to look at the Prairie Moon database because it gives info on spring flowering forbs, shrubs, vines, etc.

Susan


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

My understanding is that you want plants that supply nectar early in the season, truly cool season spring plants blooming before summer annuals?

The earliest swallowtails here are attractted to azaleas, (rhododendrons in your part of the country?) hyacinths, larkspur and yes, echinacea.

From Butterfly Garden 2008

From Butterfly Garden 2008

They forget the coneflower when something tastier starts blooming for the summer, like pentas and porterweed.

From Butterfly Garden 2008

Bridging the gap between azaleas and hyacinths and the other early bloomers in my garden is Sweet William dianthus, which blooms when the early things are waning and before the summer pretties start. I had a hard time figuring out what would supply nectar in that interim between spring blossoms and high summer plants that require hot weather. Dianthus is perfectly timed.
Sweet William

Nell


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

I used to grow California Giants zinnias. The butterflies loved them. Unfortunatley, so do japanese beetles, which we now have. YUCK!


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Thanks for the beautiful pictures and the very helpful information! I plan on growing some purple zinnias, cosmos, mexican sunflowers, orange butterfly weed, and adding some more milkweed plants. I planted two hop trees (ptelea trifoliata) and several more dutchman's pipevines last fall and I ordered two paw paw trees and one sweet cherry tree that I should receive this spring. I've read that fruit trees are good nectar sources for spring butterflies and other pollinators so hopefully these trees will help, too. We also have other fruit trees and there are a lot of wild black cherry trees growing in our area. Thanks again.
Anna


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Anna,

I just wanted to 'second' the Mexican sunflower. It is an absolute butterfly magnet for me!


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Hi Anna, I'm in PA, zone 6a, so not too far from you zonewise. Perhaps the plants that attract butterflies here would also work for you. Although it's a tall bush and only blooms for a few weeks, our lilacs attract the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in droves! I'm not sure if my coneflowers bloom in the spring (if they do, it's late spring)...they are also loved by the butterflies and I wouldn't be without them. Of course, butterfly bushes attract the butterflies and so do zinnias (single kind), Verbena bonariensis, and Mexican sunflower (tithonia). They also go to other flowers but nothing like the ones I've mentioned.

Lots of people on the forum have mentioned having great luck with lantana and anise hyssop, but those never attracted butterflies here. I guess we probably all go through some trial and error to find the most liked plants by the butterflies. I planted daisies here at first thinking the butterflies would like them but none went on them at all so they got ripped out, and some other plants met the same fate. I thought they were pretty, but I want the garden space taken up by plants that the butterflies like.

I wish you good luck with the plants you choose and hope that lots of butterflies are attracted to them. I'll warn you now that this is addicting! :)
Cathy


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

My best butterfly attracting plant that starts blooming in the spring is my 'BLUE HILL' salvia. It's a BLOOMING MACHINE! It blooms heavily, non-stop for me. I only cut it back once a season, and it takes right back off. I don't treat them very nicely either. No fertilizer. Rarely watered. I did mulch them though with wood chips and leaves.

I also have 'Maynight' salvia. Another great small butterfly attractor. It might be easier to find in the stores. It has a very strong spring bloom then lighter bloom until fall. It needs to be cut back after each flush...Kind of a pain.

Purple coneflowers are also a huge hit. My plain old Echinacea purpurea work way better than all of the fancy coneflowers I have. These are a summer-fall blooming perennial. The bonus is that finches love the seeds. It's fun to see them perching on top of the blooms, picking out the seeds.

For large butterflies, nothing beats my 'Pink Delight' and 'Royal Red' butterfly bushes.

As for zinnia, try to avoid those with very full, double blooms. Magellans rarely got any activity. They were beautiful, large, and full. Attractive to me but not butterflies. They aren't making it back to my garden this year. The fire and orange Profusions attracted very small butterflies. My recommendation would be to get a cut and come again packet of seeds. Grow them out, and save seeds from the plants that got the most activity.

Kim


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Past two days in a row I saw a Black Swallowtail trying with all its might to find nectar. This was first sighting of the year.

My Larkspur didn't germinate; May Night Salvia and Nepeta Walkers Low still in bud stage.

Poor thing kept going back to the Nepeta trying to find an open flower.

I have 4 Bronze Fennel seedlings that are still only about 6" tall. I saw BST hovering and was hoping it didn't lay any eggs cause there's not enough foliage to support one hearty muncher yet...LOL.

Well, if there were any eggs laid I'll get regular non-bulb fennel plants to feed babies. There was curly parsley that overwintered but wasn't approached.

I was just googling "spring bloom perennials for butterflies" and this thread popped up.

Hard to find interim nectar plants that are deer/rabbit resistant. I have to do Zinnia in lots of containers with green rabbit fencing all around them because the sunny spot they need is solid clay filled with tree/shrub roots. My Zinnia ghetto was a real hit last year attracting BSTs. Keep pots of them on deck too.

I learned last year that when searching out "butterfly attracting plants" it can mean only Cabbage Whites nectar from them. Pretty plants but I want to attract more than just Cabbage Whites, not that there's anything wrong with them...LOL.

Just when I think I've learned from last year what attracts the larger butterflies I know it can vary from year to year. They better like the Echinacea I got for them cause there's quite a few first year bloomers to be planted out.

Zinnia I've sown for this year are:

Benary Bright Pink, Luminosa Pink & Bright Scarlet
Zinnia haageana Chippendale
Zinnia Pinwheel Mix (pretty single flowers & no mildew)
Zinnia Carrousel Mix aka Whiligig

Why doesn't that seem like enough Zinnia varieties? There are about 20-30 seedlings of each but it doesn't seem like enough...LOL.

I've got many Verbena Bonariensis seedlings that were a devil to find what conditions they liked to germinate. Took 3 different methods and the 3rd was a charm. They better selfsow as people say they do.

To be honest, last year the BSTs would've been very happy with just Fennel, Parsley (when they finished Fennel) and Zinnia.

It's just the timing of spring weather conditions farther north that determines when they appear and what happens to be blooming when they arrive a particular year.

Foxesearth...I'm jealous of your zone with early blooming nectar plants! No butterfly could stand the cold when Hyacinths and a few other things are supposed to bloom in Spring here.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Newbie in NJ--I'm with you, I raised verbena b., last year--all of the cold stratification business, right? I hope the self-sow too, but I haven't seen any seedlings yet! At the library garden, three plants actually overwintered! That area is a little hot spot.

I agree too with Susanlynne, for me, the lawn "weeds" are the best things too. I find that having an untraditional lawn with places that we have stopped mowing are the best places for the butterflies.

Another thing too that I have found is that butterflies do have this weird way of preferring one nectar source over another every year. One year is boneset for me--they ignore purple coneflower. Last year they were crazy for the coneflower. It's funny.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Here is a vote for chives:

Photobucket

She would not let me close to her, but she could not get enough of the flowers.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Bringing this to the top. The majority of my summer flowers aren't blooming yet. There really isn't much blooming in my yard right now for the occasional butterflies I see. I had creeping phlox and woodland phlox in the spring but those have stopped and I have a gap. I need more late spring flowers.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Don't underestimate lilacs:


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Pretty photo! My teenage daughter planted a Sensation Lilac in our yard this spring but it had finished blooming when she planted it. Is that the same one that's in your photo? I'm pretty happy with her choice since I didn't have any lilacs yet and they can be a host plant for Tiger Swallowtails as well (I'm hoping). Have you ever found any cats on yours?

My verbena bonariensis and Homestead Purple are just starting to bloom now.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Newbie in NJ, if you'd like Verbena bonariensis you're welcome to come to my house and dig out some seedlings. I have them everywhere! And they were the single most popular butterfly plant I had last year - more than buddleia, asclepias and anything else you can think of.

My email is a2zmom1@yahoo.com


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

If lunalady is still with us:
An early spring Ohio native that swallowtails LOVE is hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens). I was down at Shawnee State Forest May '09. Weather was lousy so I did not get to see a lot of butterflies but the swallowtails (especially ZST) I did see were all over this plant. I actually just got 10 of them to plant in my own yard.

I was very surprised to see that swamp milkweed blooms in Wisconsin in May. Mine isn't even thinking about flowering yet.

Including a link I use to guide me to native Ohio plants.

KC

Here is a link that might be useful: Ohio Native Species for Landscape and Restoration Use


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Great thread. I was just thinking about doing some fall planting in Minnesota and definitely need to add some early bloomers

Our one true STAR from this year (and previous years) was Asclepias Syriaca (common milkweed) It attracted hoards of mourning cloaks, monarchs, a few eastern swallowtails, a few painted ladies, and this beautiful eight spotted forrester moth which I have NEVER seen in Minnesota before....it's smiling at YOU! :) Tony

From Other Butterflies


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One more note about Common Milkweed

one more quick note about common milkweed. We planted it against the south side of our house. It is fairly protected from wind/cold and gets full afternoon sun. I've noticed milkweed growing on the side of our house WEEKS earlier than I see it other places in Minnesota. Tony


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Great thread!

Your eight spotted forrester is very glamorous looking and I'd love to entice that to our garden. Haven't seen it on our common milkweed yet, but I'll keep looking!

I did read that common milkweed attracts something like 53 butterflies for nectaring in our OH/KY/IN region, so that would be a really excellent addition!

One very early spring bloomer that I see my early swallowtails visit is Hyacinths, especially the 'Gypsy Queen' variety (coral color). Surprised me a little, but I'm going to add more. Also some of the older varieties of lilacs (with lots of nectar) are popular in springtime Ohio with the swallowtails (as others mentioned first).

I'm going to have to look up that Ohio native 'hoary puccoon'~~looks interesting and something I'd like to have for our early spring Zebra Swallowtails.

The classic early spring pansies, johnny-jump-ups and other members of the violet family are nice for the fritillaries.

And Dogwoods (cornus) seem to attract butterflies (and are host plants for the spring azures).


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

W O W !!!!!

Such beautiful flowers!

Nell, (foxesearth) I went to your photo album and fell in love with the plant that was in the Aug 09 group that had the 2 butterflies on it and 1 hovering over it.

Can you tell me what that plant is? The foliage reminds me of mimosa and it has the beautiful loose-open blooms above it. AWESOME!

Thanks,
Betty


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

I find that the butterfly bush and the zinnias are winners with the butterflies here. these zinnias, with the center that looks very like a coneflower always seems to have takers. I have them in many colors and the butterflies like them all.

Photobucket

kay


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Time to think about spring bloomers.
I have creeping phlox blooming now and saw a couple flowers on my verbena 'Homestead Purple' but that's much earlier than normal. My woodland phlox isn't blooming yet.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Hi, Christie! I have been observing a Clouded Sulphur in my daughter's yard - she has a lot of "lawn weeds". It loves the Spring Beauties that are in bloom right now.

I think the early butterflies like the lawn weeds and flowering trees/shrubs like plums, cherries, Redbud, Dogwood, Lilacs, etc. a lot.

Are you planting anything new for them this year? Zinnies seeds I have to sow are Chippendale, Cut & Come Again, Sombrero, and Whirligig. Most are single flowering types. I also got Fiesta del Sol Tithonias and Asclepias physocarpa.

Last year I had purple Gomphrena and Mountain Mint that the Reakirt's Blue and Grey Hairstreaks were all over - dozens and dozens of them. The MM is perennial, and hopefully the Gomphrena will self sow. These will come on later.

Early spring nectar plants are harder to determine IMHO. Some mentioned Dianthus and this will be my 2nd year growing some. I hope they do attract butterflies - they are blooming now as well.

Susan


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

"Are you planting anything new for them this year?" lol Of course! If every seed germinates and lives, I'll have hundreds of new plants for the butterflies. My luck won't be that good though. The only one I can think of that I sowed that might bloom early is phlox pilosa, but it hasn't germinated yet. I sowed some more woodland phlox seeds too. Can't get enough of that.
I have three different dianthus that I planted last year. They made it through the winter but they're not blooming yet. Neither is my dogwood so I must be a bit behind you Susan.
There's a wild plum at the edge of our field that just started blooming a day or two ago and redbuds are blooming here. I haven't seen any butterflies on them at all but I think most of my butterflies are still sleeping. We're in for a few days of rain and then some more warm weather. Maybe that will wake them up.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

Sandy (butterflyok) saw a Monarch the other day, so be on the lookout. None of my milkweed is up yet, but she said that her incarnata is up just a few inches.

Susan


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

The asclepias incarnata that I winter sowed this year has germinated but there are only a few so far. I hope it's too early for a. tuberosa to be up because I couldn't find any sign of the seedlings I planted last summer when I checked a couple days ago. I'll be disappointed if they don't return.

Other host plants - My Bronze Fennel is a few inches tall if a Black Swallowtail happens to come by and my Tulip tree is starting to leaf out for the Tiger Swallowtails. I didn't notice whether my Spicebushes are leafing out.


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RE: Best spring blooming perennials & best zinnias for butterflie

I think it is way too early for tuberosa. Incarnata is one of the 1st milkweeds to show here, and then viridis.

I'm wondering about speciosa. I can't remember when it came up last year.

Both green and bronze fennel stayed pretty all winter, and since the weather warmed up, they'e really taken off. Calling all BSTs!!!!

I grow both Black Cherry and Tulip Tree for the Tigers. The cherry is leafed out now, but the Tulip Tree is lagging behind, but has buds.

Other host plants up are False Nettle, Baptisia, Asters, a tiny passion vine sucker, and pipevines.

Susan


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