27 February 2008

Start Seeds Now to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden This Summer

Monarch Watch is restocked on their Monarch Butterfly Waystation Kits. You don't have to become an official stop for migrating Monarchs in order to plant the seeds and enjoy the view.

Use the discount coupon code 2008SEED to get 15% off Monarch Waystation Seed Kits. Each Kit includes 12 seeds of 12 plants. Six of the plants are for adult butterfly nectar and the other six are to feed caterpillars. These host plants are where the adults lay eggs and are the plants the caterpillar stage Monarchs eat in order to grow into butterflies.

MILKWEEDS are both host and nectar plants. Aphids love them, so put them in full sun. The information from Monarch Watch on the contents of the seed packs:

BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepias tuberosa) Perennial; Height: 1 to 2 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Attractive prairie plant with orange clusters of dainty flowers. Attracts butterflies. This drought-tolerant plant blooms from June to September. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Start seeds indoors, covering with 1/4 inch of fine soil. Transplant outdoors when weather has warmed in the spring. Can be sown directly outdoors, but may take a season to bloom.

SHOWY MILKWEED (Asclepias speciosa) Perennial; Height: 3 to 5 feet; Blooms summer. Beautiful pale pink inflorescence. Blooms June to August. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in early spring. Prefers full sun. Drought tolerant.

COMMON MILKWEED (Asclepias syriaca) Perennial; Height: 3 to 5 feet; Blooms summer. Flower clusters are greenish purple to dull purple. nice fragrance. Blooms June to August. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in early spring. Prefers full sun. Drought tolerant.

SWAMP MILKWEED (Asclepias incarnata subsp. incarnata) Perennial; Height: 4 to 5 feet; Blooms summer. Does well in wet areas. Flowers are bright pink and rarely white. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in a sunny area. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Does not like transplanting. Can be grown in containers.

SWAMP MILKWEED (Asclepias incarnata subsp. pulchra) Perennial; Height: 2 to 3 feet; Blooms summer. Does well in wet areas. Flowers are red. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rates, seeds should be cold-stratified at least 6 weeks prior to planting. Plant seeds outdoors in a sunny area. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Does not like transplanting. Can be grown in containers.

TROPICAL MILKWEED (Asclepias curassavica) Annual; Height: 3 to 3-1/2 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Tropical plant with glossy leaves and brilliant red-orange flowers. Sturdy stems make this an excellent plant for windy areas. Perennial in the south. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. Plant seeds outdoors in a sunny area. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil. Can be grown in containers.

SWAN PLANT (Asclepias fruticosa) Annual; Height: 3 to 6 feet; Blooms late spring to mid summer. Flower clusters white and cream. Host plant for monarch & queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. Perennial in frost-free areas. Grows in partial shade to full sun. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Drought tolerant.

PURPLE MILKWEED (Asclepias cordifolia) Perennial; Height: 2 to 3 feet; Blooms late spring/early summer. Smooth heart-shaped leaves and purplish-violet & pink flower umbels. Host plant for monarch and queen larvae. Good nectar plant for butterflies. For best germination rate, seeds should be cold stratified for 2 to 3 weeks. Seeds also may be planted outside in the fall. Plant does best in full sun but can handle partial shade. Requires well-drained soil. Drought tolerant.

General Nectar Plants
COSMOS, Dwarf Sensation Mix (Cosmos bipinnatus) Annual; Height: 1 to 2 feet; Blooms May-November. Flowers have a yellow center disk with rays of white, pink and red petals. Sow 1/16 inch deep in the spring after danger of frost. Germinates in 7 to 21 days. Seedlings are not winter hardy. Requires full sun and well-drained soils. Do not fertilize. Fertile soils produce tall, lanky plants with few blooms.


JOE PYE WEED (Eupatorium purpureum) Perennial; Height: 5 to 7 feet; Blooms July-September. Small pink flowers in large dome shaped clusters on sturdy green steams with purple leaf nodes. Good butterfly nectar plant. For best germination rate, seeds should be cold-stratified for 2-4 weeks prior to planting. Plant outdoors in an area of full sun to partial shade. Grows best in moist soil.

FLOSS FLOWER, Blue Horizon (Ageratum houstonianum) Annual; Height: 1-1/2 to 2 feet; Blooms summer. Puffs of mid-blue flowers on long stems. Sow late winter to mid spring at 60 degrees (F) in a good seed compost. Keep soil damp but not wet. Germination usually takes 10-15 days. When seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant and grow in cooler conditions. Gradually aclimitize to outdoor conditions for 10-15 days before planting after all risk of frost, 6-12 inches apart in a sunny spot in good garden soil.

PURPLE CONEFLOWER (Echinacea purpurea) Perennial; Height: 2 to 3 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Produces beautiful, large purple flowers with bronze, dome-shaped centers on long stems. Plants are drought resistant, but can tolerate moist soil. Good butterfly nectar plant. Select a sunny location and plant seed in early spring. For best results, mix seed with a cup of sand for better distribution of seed over the planting area. Keep moist until plants begin to grow. Water only when necessary.

TITHONIA TORCH, Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) Annual; Height: 4 to 6 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Vivid orange-scarlet single flowers measure 3 inches across. Stands heat well. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Makes an excellent cut flower. Plant seeds in a sunny location after all danger of frost has passed. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep, 6 inches apart, thinning to 2 feet apart when plant reaches 3 inches tall.

VERBENA (Verbena bonairiensis) Perennial; Height: 3 to 6 feet; Blooms summer/fall. Tall, self-supporting plants. Clusters of tiny lilac purple flowers are very fragrant. Good nectar plant for butterflies. Plant seeds outdoors in early spring, covering with 1/4 inch of soil. Prefers full sun. Reseeds itself freely.

Many other flowers can be interplanted with butterfly weed and the other seeds offered above to attract butterflies. Others that are easy to grow from seed, love to bake in the summer sun, and bring a butterfly show - Asters, Joe Pye Weed, Staghorn Sumac, Elderberry, Zinnia and Calendula.
Triangle Flashback Calendula from Johnny's Selected Seeds
Solar Flashback Calendula from Johnny's Selected Seeds
Deja Vu Calendula from Johnny's Selected Seeds

Get some seeds and plant them now so they can have a few weeks of cold nights in order to germinate.

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