Garden Help Desk: Creating a Garden That Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds | News, Sports, Jobs

Courtesy of Meredith Seaver

The tubular bottoms on phlox flowers provide a small amount of nectar to hungry butterflies.

My gardening goals are gardens that attract native butterflies and hummingbirds for feeding, breeding and nesting, contain only perennial herbaceous plants, and have plants that always bloom from late February through November. I just have a few questions about how to do this.

1. Does my garden sketch look like I’m trying to put too many types of flowers in the beds?

2. Can I plant seeds instead of plants and be reasonably successful? Where can I buy pollinator and native plant seeds?

3. Do you have any suggestions? Any thoughts I didn’t ask for?

I am very curious about your wishes! I see you have put a lot of thought and research into your pollinator friendly garden. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with each plant on your list, but I can tell you what I know.

Courtesy of Meredith Seaver

Most of our favorite sunflowers are not perennials, but they are a popular food source for bees and are freely reseeded. Plant annual sunflowers once and you can get seedlings for several years.

1. I don’t think you’re trying to put too many flowers in your beds. You can check this by drawing your garden to scale. Include any existing assets, which are also drawn to scale. Then add your additional plants, drawn to scale. You can see if you have room for all the strains on your list. It is best to plant 3 or more of each variety for two reasons. First, it ensures that if one of the plants dies, you have survivors. Second, it’s easier on the eye if you repeat plants in the landscape rather than just having one of each species.

2. I haven’t grown many of these plants myself, so I can’t give advice on seed germination success for most of them. However, I find that blue flax, desert globe mallow, black-eyed susan, blanket flower and sunflower usually germinate reliably and are easily overseeded. I think that these plants will give you the most success. There are several online seed companies that sell these seeds.

3. In your landscape plan drawing I noticed that you have some trees on your property. Glad to see it – hummingbirds will appreciate a place to perch and nest. A landscape of only perennials would deprive them of this refuge.

Other plants you may want to add to your native, pollinator-friendly garden include desert four o’clock (Mirablis multiflora), penstemons, and common yarrow (Achillia millifolium). Check out Bee Balm, Phlox paniculate, or one of the Agastache species (Hummingbird Mint).

In addition to providing numerous food sources for local pollinators, you can make your landscape more pollinator-friendly by adding water sources. Hummingbirds, moths, and butterflies can get all the water they need from nectar or other food sources they find, but other birds and bees will benefit from reliable access to water. Bees can’t swim, so set out a small, shallow tray or saucer of water filled with enough marbles or pebbles so the bees can safely stand directly over the water while drinking. The “watering station” should be fixed in a place where it is stable and out of the reach of pets. A bird bath offers birds a place to splash and drink. Of course, you should ensure that your water sources never dry up.

Courtesy of Meredith Seaver

This dense cluster of mature whitetips can produce millions of seeds, but even before they drop seeds, these weeds spread through rhizomes and send out new shoots.

I have many whitetop weeds growing in the grass in my front yard and they have been spreading in recent years. Mowing doesn’t stop them. I’ve read that 2.4-D should help if I spray before it blooms, but the weed is blooming right now and I’ve read that 2.4-D doesn’t do anything once it blooms. What else can I do besides mowing?

White Top is a tough weed. Expect to spend more than one season with it. For now, take good care of your lawn by mowing higher, watering deeply but infrequently, and applying adequate nitrogen to keep it dense, healthy, and competitive with the weeds. Also keep the whitetop mowed. If you see regrowth and new flower buds, have them sprayed, but avoid spraying on days when temperatures exceed about 80 degrees.

A product that combines 2.4-D and dicamba should be more effective than 2.4-D alone. Watch the weeds as you can see some in the rosette stage in the fall and that is a good time to spray them. Include a pre-emergent herbicide in your spring lawn care routine next spring and spray the weeds that are already present.


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