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For The Garden

Nectar Plants for Butterflies

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: March, 2014, Page 148

(Calendula officinalis)

Type: Annual

Elevation: Low, mid, high

Blooms: Orange or bright yellow; fall to spring at low to mid elevations with mild winters; spring to midsummer at higher elevations with cold winters

Size: 1-2'H by 1-2'W

Soil: Improved garden soil

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Moderate

Maintenance: Remove spent flowers to prolong bloom.

Note: Other flower colors include apricot, cream and buttery yellow. Plant in masses for maximum effect.

Why we like it: Calendula plants grow easily from seed or transplants and produce a lengthy bloom season. Good container plant for patios.

(Caryopteris x clandonensis)

Type: Deciduous shrub

Elevation: Low, mid

Blooms: Blue; summer to fall

Size: 2-4'H by 3-4'W

Soil: Excellent drainage to prevent root rot

Light: Full sun; tolerates afternoon shade in low, hot deserts

Water needs: Moderate to low

Maintenance: Prune back hard in late winter/early spring to promote blooming on new growth.

Note: Foliage may die to the ground in cold winters, usually resprouting from roots in spring. Named selections are available, with varying bloom seasons or plant sizes.

Why we like it: Blue flowers against gray-green foliage add soothing coolness to sun-drenched gardens.

(Ericameria nauseosa)

Type: Deciduous shrub   

Elevation: Low, mid, high

Blooms: Golden yellow; late summer through early fall

Size: 3-5'H by 3-5'W

Soil: Any desert soil

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Rejuvenate by cutting back to several inches above ground in early spring, just before new growth starts.

Note: Its show-stopping flower color paints roadsides in August and September. It is most commonly found in pinyon-juniper woodlands or high-desert locales.

Why we like it: This native, drought-tolerant plant makes an excellent choice for perimeter xeric zones or wildlife habitats. It produces scores of seeds for birds, self-sows readily for revegetation and prevents soil erosion.

(Calotropis procera)

Type: Evergreen tree or shrub

Elevation: Low   

Blooms: Cream petals tipped with purple or pink; late winter through late fall

Size: 6-8'H by 3-4'W

Soil: Good drainage

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Low

Maintenance: Cut back in late December/early January if it appears leggy.

Note: Avoid contact with milky latex sap that may irritate skin and eyes. Inedible green fruits the size of oranges split open to emit brown seeds attached to white silks (similar to true milkweeds).

Why we like it: Stunning flower clusters provide nectar for many butterfly species over a lengthy bloom season.

Other Favorites: Aster, coneflower, dyssodia, gaillardia, red bird of paradise, sweet alyssum
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