Flowers and Bushes for Butterflies and Birds
(All are perennials unless otherwise specified)
By Deb Ellis
Aster, New England, Aster novae angliae. Nectar for migrating butterflies. Full to partial sun, average to moist soil, 3-6’. Clusters of very showy 2” purple flowers with bright-yellow centers from August through October. Pinch back in late May and again in late June or early July to encourage shorter, bushier plants.
Bee Balm, Mondarda didyma. Nectar for butterflies, also attractive to hummingbirds. Sun to partial shade, average or rich soil, 4’. Blooms July-August. Divide every 3 yrs. for maximum bloom. Lasts 3 years in shade, then can be replaced with plants from sun. Susceptible to mildew; water in a.m. to minimize mildew. Wild bergamot, monarda fistulosa, is taller and more drought tolerant.
Blanket flower (“painted daisy”), gaillardia pulchella. Nectar source for butterflies. Full sun, salt and drought-tolerant, 1-2’. Blooms all summer. Annual: sow seeds directly into warm soil after frost danger has passed.
Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Larval host plant to Monarch caterpillars. Full sun or part shade, good drainage, and little water, 2-3’. Half-hardy perennial. Blooms June to September. Remove dead flowers to extend bloom. Perfect for hot, sunny locations.
Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis. Nectar source for butterflies; also attracts hummingbirds. Sun to partial shade to shade, average to dry soil, 1-2’. Blooms spring through early summer. Graceful plant with re-spurred drooping bell-like flowers with yellow centers. Easy to grow; likes soil rich in organic matter. Makes good cut flower.
Gayfeather, Blazing Star, Liatris spicata. Nectar source for butterflies. Full sun, 3-4’. Blooms mid to late summer. Cut back faded flower spikes to encourage rebloom.
Goldenrod, Solidago spp. Nectar source for many butterflies, especially Monarch. Full sun, average soil, 1-4’. Blooms August through October.
Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum. Nectar source for many butterflies, including swallowtails. Sun/part sun, average soil, to 7’. A giant plant crowned by huge domes of dusty mauve, sometimes white or red-purple flowers. Blooms late summer.
Lavender, Spike (lavender latifolia). Fall nectar source for Tiger Swallowtail; also juncos like seeds, which ripen in late autumn. Blooms from late August until nearly November.
Pincushion flower, Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly blue’. Nectar for migrating butterflies. Sun/part shade in lean soil on dry side, 12-15 inches. Blooms summer into fall. Excellent cut flower. Deadheading encourages continuous flower production.
Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. Nectar source for butterflies, also food source for hummingbirds, goldfinches. Full sun or part shade, 2-4’. Blooms June to October. Deadheading encourages continuous flower production.
Sedum (Stonecrop), Sedum spectabile. One of the best fall nectar sources, attracting a wide range of butterflies. Full sun, light shade in well-drained soil, average water, 1-2. Will thrive in poor soil. Blooms late summer.
Sunflower, Mexican, Tithonia rotundifolia. Favorite nectar source for Monarchs. Sun in lean soil, 6’. Blooms July – frost. Tolerates drought. Sow seed directly outdoors in spring; difficult to transplant; grows fast.
Violet, common blue, Viola papilionacea, STATE FLOWER OF NEW JERSEY! Host plant for caterpillars of several Fritilaary butterflies. Sun to shade, average soil, 4-8”. Blooms March – June. Spreads readily.
Zinnias, zinnia spp. Nectar source for butterflies. Annual. Full sun. Blooms June to October. Deadhead to maintain blooming; avoid overhead watering to discourage powdery mildew. Look for single flowers to increase nectar availability.
Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica. Important food for migratory birds. Full sun/partial shade, 3-8’. Feeds 25 species of birds.
Blueberry, vaccinium corymbosum. Food source for robin, bluebird, and 34 other species. Full sun, tolerates partial shade, prefers acid, well-drained soil, 6-15’. Native, dense, deciduous shrub that is ideal for creating a hedge. Favorite nest site for gray catbird.
Butterfly Bush, Buddleia spp. Nectar source for a wide range of butterflies. Full sun in well-drained soil, up to 10-12.’ Fast growth each season; in spring, can prune back to 12-18 inches above soil or just above the highest surviving buds; best flowers bloom on new growth. Do not prune in fall.
New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus. Nectar source for spring butterflies. Part sun to shade in light, well-drained soil, 2-3’ with slightly greater spread. Blooms July-August. Birds like too.
Serviceberry/Shadbush, amelanchier spp. Attracts 40 species of birds; important food source for many songbirds. Sun/half sun, prefers rich soil, ranges from shrubs to small trees. Blooms in spring before dogwoods.
Snowberry, symphoricarpos albus. Attracts many birds with the white berries, which are an important source of winter food; host for hummingbird moths. Full sun/partial shade, prefers well-drained, fertile soil. Six feet in good soil, but usually much smaller. Good bird planting for hedges and property borders.
Sweet Pepperbush/Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia. Nectar source for butterflies. Sun to shade, moist to average acid soils, 3-8’. Blooms late July to August, wonderful fragrant white flowers. Narrow shrub, erect, multiple stems; has a suckering habit so give it room to grow. Responds well to pruning.
Virburnum, virburnum spp. Viburnum species shrubs (arrowwood, mapleleaf, cranberry, etc.) are an important food source for many birds; also provide cover and nesting places; also host plant for spring azure butterflies. Sun/partial shade, fertile soil. Highly ornamental shrub with abundant flowers, some varieties fragrant, and prolific berries. Great as specimen plants or for property-line screening.
Sources for Wildflowers and Wildlife Bushes:
Local nurseries are beginning to stock more of these plants. However, if you can’t find it at your local nursery, below are excellent nurseries specializing in these plants.
Arrowwood Native Plant Nursery, 856-697-6045, Franklinville, NJ
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, www.bhwp.org, 215/862-2924, New Hope, PA
Fairweather Gardens, www.fairweathergardens.com, 856/451-6261, Greenwich, NJ
Rare Find Nursery, www.rarefindnursery.com, 732/833-0613, Jackson, NJ
Toadshade Wildflower Flarm, www.toadshade.com, 908/996-7500, Frenchtown,
II. A Forest Mini-Ecosystem for Your Backyard