Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
July, 2001
Regional Report

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A butterfly favorite, purple coneflower does what few perennials do in our region. It gets bigger and better, year after year.

Bountiful Butterflies

Now that the summer sauna season is here, I'd rather watch my garden than actually work in it. The goldfinches come and go as they harvest still-green sunflower seeds. Almost any hour of the day I can watch butterflies sipping nectar from my flowers. I think of these amazing creatures as the flying flowers of summer, and I can never get enough of their colorful show.

Butterfly Plants

Several plants are well-known beacons for butterflies such as lantana, butterfly bush, pentas, and purple coneflower. However, butterflies will stop to sip at any promising flower such as zinnias and black-eyed susans provided they can balance themselves on their skinny legs while managing to extend their proboscis (tongue-like mouthpart that works like a drinking straw) down into the base of a flower. Plant lists abound with butterfly favorites, including several in articles you can read here at

Other Butterfly Needs

In addition to growing plants butterflies like, it's equally important to resist the temptation to use pesticides while butterflies are active. If you must spray plants with botanical pesticides, cover sprayed plants with an old sheet or rowcover to exclude butterflies for at least 1 day from that plant. If they do feed on it, they'll die.

Give Them Water

Rainfall has been more than abundant so far this year, but if the skies dry up you can help keep butterflies around by making a shallow puddle somewhere near your garden. This can be an actual wet spot in your yard, or fill a shallow container with small pebbles, a little garden soil, and enough water so that the surface appears wet. Include a few larger rocks that rise above the water so the butterflies can stand, and you'll see butterflies basking, sipping, and generally relaxing around this cool oasis.

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