Hoping to attract butterflies and other valuable pollinators to your garden? It won’t take long to roll out the welcome mat. Butterfly gardens are full of vigorous annuals and quick-maturing perennials.
See just how fast a butterfly garden can go from 0 to 60. Here’s the bed in early spring, after annuals were removed and grasses and perennials chopped down to the base.
And here’s the butterfly garden at peak in August, overflowing with a bounty of flowers that will tempt not only butterflies but other valuable pollinators such as bees.
This Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, Zones 5–9, plays a supporting role. It adds wispy texture in summer when surrounded by flowers. In fall and winter, its tan blades and architectural habit anchor the bed when little else is standing.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a prairie native that soaks up the hot summer sun without complaint. In addition to butterflies, top photo, purple coneflowers are a favorite with precious honeybees, right, as well. Regularly remove faded blooms to prolong flowering but let some go to seed in fall to feed birds.
Where purple coneflowers go, black-eyed Susans are sure to follow. They’re ready-made companions, preferring the same growing conditions and delighting pollinators with their large and plentiful blooms. These are perennial black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’), Zones 4–9, which bloom for months if deadheaded.
Gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) is a short-lived cousin, Zones 3–7, that is often grown as an annual. Let it go to seed in fall so fading parent plants can sow a new generation before expiring for good.
‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis (C. verticillata) is a mounded perennial, Zones 3–8, that grows only 18 inches tall. It peaks in early summer but blooms sporadically till fall. Even when it’s not in bloom, the finely cut foliage remains attractive.
Good to Know: Although all the plants in this bed will accept drier conditions, they will look fuller, healthier, and more colorful if irrigated when the weather is dry. However, good drainage is essential.
Perennials aren’t pollinators’ only friends. Flowering trees and shrubs also play a role, especially in spring when many perennials have yet to bloom. But the best partners — due to their long season of bloom — are annuals such as this zinnia, right, which has attracted a bumblebee.
Here are a dozen annuals that will attract their share of pollinators.
- Bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus)
- Butterfly flower (Asclepias curassavica)
- Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
- Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)