In St. Louis, we finally have confirmation of the first monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. Margy Terpstra has a great blog which shows these recent sightings.
If you have some milkweed which you have started inside, now would be the time to put some out. I would probably leave it in the pot for a week or two since we still may have some freezing weather. For laying eggs, Monarchs don’t care whether it’s in the pot or in the ground. Group it together to make it easier for them to find.
Also start putting out your hummingbird feeder since they are also back in St. Louis. Margy has a great picture of them nectaring on Bluebells. It’s a great early season native flower.
One of my late season observations was that my hummingbird feeders were attracting painted lady butterflies and bees. Since the hummingbirds were gone, I took off the top of one of my feeders and put in some plastic landing pads.
As you can see above, butterflies and bees are both attracted to this feeder. I am still using the 1 to 4 ratio of sugar to water. The bees will drink the liquid within an hour.
As you can see in the video below, it does get rather busy, but the bees paid no attention to me and were not aggressive at all.
While my main focus in the garden is butterflies, I also like to encourage hummingbirds to come and visit. Hummers like to use many of the same flowers that butterflies prefer, so it’s really easy to get them to come and visit.
I also like to put up feeders, but then the question is , “What date is the best?”
This time of the year, mid-August, the champion nectar plant in my garden is lantana. Butterflies and hummingbrids both are attracted to its sweet nectar.
The four varieties pictured above are the ones I am testing out this year.
Ham and Eggs is my favorite. I really like the pink and yellow combination. It grows in pots, hanging baskets and even does pretty well in partial shade. It about medium height and makes a great display.
Chapel Hill Yellow is a new variety I’ m trying out and it seems to be doing well also. It’s a low-growing variety and would probably also do well in a hanging basket.
Star Landing is a very vigorous variety and right now is four foot high and three foot tall. Its bright yellow and orange is a striking color combination.
Miss Huff is the only variety which is a bit disappointing. It’s color combinations are washed out and looks like a faded t-shirt. It also is very vigorous and tall, but it won’t be invited back next year.
One of the tricks I have learned is that with some plants, if you plant them next to a basement wall, they will return every year even if they otherwise would die out in the rest of the garden.
My favorite plant to do this with is Salvia black and blue. It’s a hummingbird favorite and unfortunately will generally die out from year to year. Mine is now about two inches tall even though we are still having freezing evenings.
May 11th – the garden is filling up with it’s usual residents. Monarchs are laying eggs, hummingbirds are nectaring and the goldfinch are eating the aphids on my red honeysuckle. Since we never did get a late frost, everything looks great.
One trick I use with Black and Blue Salvia is to grow it next to my basement foundation. It has come back for the last 2 years that way while the plants which I left in the open have died. Do you know of any other plants which can benefit from this extra bit of heat?
Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ , is normally a zone 8 to 10 plant according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. In St.Louis, normally a Zone 5 area, we experienced temperatures in the Zero degree range this winter. I took a suggestion from a friend and moved some of it right next to my concrete basement, covered it with some mulch and it survived and is sending up shoots this spring.
This turned out to be my best hummingbird nectar plant. I rarely saw butterflies on it.