Tiger Swallowtail on dwarf Joe Pye Weed.
Category Archives: Nectar Plant
Don’t plant mint in your garden.
The picture shows what can happen when mint is planted and takes over a garden after only a couple of years.
This plant was suggested by a native landscaper, who obviously doesn’t know how aggressive this plant can be.
There is two exceptions
If you have time and are committed, I have grown Slender Mountain Mint in a garden, but you have to give it a specific area to grow and be prepared to dig out the invasive roots once or twice a year.
The 2nd exception is Calamint. It doesn’t spread by runners and will bloom all summer. Montrose White is a great cultivar.
If you want to grow most mints, I’d suggest growing them in a large pot either on concrete or off the ground.
I found a recent trial of Echinacea – Purple Coneflower – that you might enjoy. Echinacea is a prolific bloomer in my gardens, but doesn’t always come back especially when attacked by my root loving voles.
I keep seed from plants that do well and either plant them in the fall or sometime in March. I usually don’t get blooms the first year, but they do well the 2nd year. I also like that they do well in the shade which a lot of people have.
The problem I have had with cultivars is that #1 – they are expensive and #2 – they don’t live as long as the natives. The report tests the plants over three years and which ones did the best. Enjoy!
One quote from the study shows the preference of the native Echinacea purpurea.
“Purple coneflower was the preferred species of pollinators in our trial, ranking second overall for its ability to attract bees, wasps, and butterflies.”
Here’s the link. Note – download the pdf – it’s easier to read.
One of the bonuses I get every year are lantana plants which just popup in some of my gardens from seed that they dropped the year before. I thought I’d encourage this behavior by saving this year’s seeds and testing it in some of my flower test beds.
Here is what the seed looks like. I’m pulling off the black seeds and putting them in paper bags to dry. In a couple of weeks I’ll plant them in the beds and test a couple of ideas. 1. Put the seeds on top of the soil. This is how my other seeds would have germinated. 2. Cover the seeds lightly with 1/4 inch of soil.
One of the impossible conditions that people list online when they are looking for plants is, “Perennial which blooms all summer.”
One of the few perennials which fulfills these conditions is Calamintha nepeta – Montrose White. I’ve only grown this for a couple of years, but it is a pollinator favorite which blooms all season long.
Mine grows about 36″ wide and 24″ tall. I’d put it in front of the garden and let it cover an area with blooms. It would nice make a nice border or edging plant.
I found my locally at Greenscape Nursery In St. Louis.
Scott Woodbury did a recent program where he talked about asters and goldenrod and gave advice on both.
Here is some of the advice he gave plus my experiences with specific species.
Spring Haircut – (SH) he talks about cutting back most of the asters and goldenrod by 50% – 70% in late April or early May. He does this once. I also do this with ironweed and I’m trying this on some of my echinacea to encourage some late blooms.
Asters in general are clump forming except for Willow-Leaf Aster.
Aromatic Aster – Symphyotrichum oblongifolium – Try dividing this in spring. Easy to grow from seed after stratification. Take cuttings in June.
Blooms in October/November. Mounds with lots of flowers. Good for pollinators late in the year. Makes a nice hedge.
Calico Aster – Symphyotrichum lateriflorum
2′ height – can be weedy.
Drummond Aster – Symphyotrichum drummondii
This is shade tolerant woodland aster. Short-Lived.
Hairy Aster – Symphyotrichum pilosum
Lots of seeds and weedy.
Heath Aster – Symphyotrichum ericoides – SH – Try this.
Can grow tall and flop over. Don’t use.
New England Aster – Symphyotrichum novae-angliae – SH
I’ve found this to be an aggressive grower that usually flops over and I usually end up staking it. It will tolerate some shade. It’s a butterfly magnet. It blooms around the time that Monarchs show up in St. Louis. Purple Dome is a cultivar that is supposed to stay small, but mine has always gotten large. Seeds can be a problem.
Purple Aster – Symphyotrichum patens (Called Spreading Aster) – Try This
Showy – Flowers Aug, – Oct. Tolerates some shade.
Sky Blue Aster – Symphyotrichum oolentangiense
Lots of seeds.
Willowleaf Aster – Symphyotrichum praealtum
Aggressive with underground runners. Not appropriate for most gardens.
Atlantic Goldenrod – Solidago
Scott likes this, but may not be available.
Blue-Stem Goldenrod – Solidago
Long stems which arch down. Good for woodland.
Buckley’s Goldenrod – Solidago buckleyi –
Grows in the woods. 2′ – nice shape, but reseeds easily.
Cliff Goldenrod – Solidago drummondii
Would cascade over a retaining wall. 24″ – nice plant – Sun and Part Shade.
Golden Fleece – Solidago sphacelata – I grow this.
It stays low and spreads out. 24″ tall.
Riddell’s Goldenrod – Solidago riddellii
Rain garden – 3′ tall –
Rough-Leafed Goldenrod – Solidago rugosa
Likes shade. Grows in woods. Showy.
Showy Goldenrod – Solidago speciosa – SH
Spear shaped – upright
Stiff Goldenrod – Solidago rigida – SH
Aggressive seeder. Pollinators like this in my garden. Need to deadhead in the home garden.
Tall Goldenrod – Solidago altimissa – SH
Don’t plant this. It spreads by rhizomes and will take over a garden. It make take years to pull it all out.
Zig Zag Goldenrod – Solidago flexicaulis
Can be clump forming or slightly spreading. Shade tolerant. I took mine out as there were no pollinators on it.
Cut stems 12″ to 18″ high and leave for solitary bees.
Prairies can have 46 species in a 20″ x 20″ area. That’s why the plants are not as tall and vigorous in a prairie.
One of my goals is to have as many blooming plants and as much color throughout the year. Here is a plan which is working well for me.
March – April
They come back every year and disappear back into the soil. Scatter the seed around when they are done blooming.
May – June
They will reseed themselves, but I choose to save a lot of the seed and plant them again around April 1st.
July to Frost
Salvia – Lady in Red – annual.
These will also reseed themselves and germinate around July 1st.
Approximately 50 echinacea seedlings from seed I collected and planted on March 1st. The moral is, don’t throw away your old echinacea seeds as you cleanup the garden in early spring. The voles frequently decimate my echinacea roots, so I constantly need to renew them.
Most lantana will only last a year in cold climates. In St. Louis, I have kept mine alive for eight years with very little help.
Note that Miss Huff appears to be a stronger and more hardy plant than Star Landing. Star Landing is a bit more colorful. These are the only two varieties that I have found which will come back in my area.
Both of these plants are hard to find locally. I got mine from https://www.plantdelights.com/
Here are some tips on growing hardy lantana.
Don’t cut back the lantana until some time in April. I usually cut them back to about six inches. Pull back any mulch at this time to let the plants warm up….Then – be patient. They take until late May to show signs of growth.
In the fall, save your leaves and mulch the lantana with a good layer of leaves to help protect the plants.
The plants against my basement always come back. Lantana appreciates the extra soil heat.
The eight plants at Whitecliff Park also came back this year without any extra help. They do however have great southern soil exposure.
While there are many plants that can be used as a hedge, this page will be used to suggest plants that are also good for butterflies.
Note – I’m looking for help if you have grown any of these.
Arrowwood Viburnum -Viburnum Dentatum
Wild Hydrangea – Hydrangea arborescens
Sue Leahy – “The BEST hydrangea for butterflies and bees is Wild Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). It is a pollinator magnet.”
Hydrangea paniculata – standard version.
- The trick is to get the older standard version, not a newer species. The picture above is an older hydrangea which is a magnet for bees and pollinators in my garden. The Summer Azure will also lay eggs on the flower buds.
- A newer variety I have, Limelight, has beautiful flowers, but does not attract any pollinators. Apparently the flowers are serile.
- Missouri Botanical Garden
- Pinky Winky is another newer version of this which does attract pollinators. 1 – 2
Nannyberry Viburnum – Viburnum lentago
Thanks to Dennis Bozzay for the above picture.
Ninebark – Physocarpus opulifolius
Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum – Viburnum rufidulum
This will bloom and provide nectar for early spring butterflies. It is also a host plant for spring/summer azures. Dark fruit in the fall for birds. This plant will sucker, so this could be a problem in some settings. 10′ – 20′ tall and wide. Sun to partial shade.