Flying Flowers

For our May 2010 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we gave away five pairs of passes to Brookside Gardens “Wings of Fancy" Butterfly Exhibit, which runs through the summer in Wheaton, MD.

We asked entrants to tell us their favorite butterfly attracting plants. Not surprisingly, most entries named Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), host plant of the monarch. Mark L. of Washington, DC remarked on its relative Show milkweed (Asclepias speciosa): "Plant is easy to grow, has good structure with beautiful flowers and also provides food for adults and caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. Adults of other butterflies also feed on the flowers."

Katie R. of Gaithersburg, MD, said her favorite butterfly attracting plant is: "Buddleia (aka Butterfly Bush)-- even though it's invasive, my kids love it for the butterflies that it brings to the yard. My older son is a butterfly enthusiast, in no small part due to the butterfly bush in the yard!" Katie was joined by a few others who dared to name this "exotic" as a top butterfly plant. It did gets its common name for a reason!

"Gaillardia is my favorite butterfly-attracting plant," wrote Judith D. of Washington, DC, on her entry email. "It is a perennial which can be grown from seed, tolerates drought, blooms all season, is successful in my yard and is beautiful. What more could I ask for?"

Bee Balm and Lilac both got single votes. I'm personally surprised no one named Lantana, Sage, or Verbena which are probably my three biggest butterfly attractors in my own home garden.

Patricia B. of Indian Head, MD, had an unusual answer: "Azaelas. The azaelas are among the first to bloom and I love to watch the butterflies feed on the flowers. We've got pinks and whites, a few reds and lavender too. The yellow and black swallowtails make a gorgeous color contrast against the flowers. For sanity and pure enjoyment I have my butterfly watch time followed by an evening bat watch. That's my happy pill."

So, what plants bring butterflies to YOUR garden?


Karen Blandford said…
The biggest butterfly magnet in my gardens is garden pholx. I am not sure if it is the blooming time or the flower, but the fluttering gets pretty intense!
In our school garden, we have a large fennel plant on which we found 6 swallowtail caterpillars.
Fennel and phlox are both terrific! I need to add from my own garden that I find verbena and lantana covered with fluttering each summer.

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