We all love to sit in our gardens and watch the monarch butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds sipping nectar from our flowers.
Planting the right plants in the right place is the secret to attracting both. Knowing just which plants are right is a challenge.
Marcia Van Loy, master of butterfly and hummingbird gardening, will give you all the secrets for turning your garden into a haven for these lovely freeloaders. She will be speaking at Weidner’s Gardens Ladybug, Butterfly and Hummingbird Festival at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 16, at 695 Normandy Road.
The festival, May 16 and May 17, will be packed with activities, free ladybug samples for kids, insect exhibits and real information that you can use. Ida the Imu is coming too. (Find a festival schedule at weidners.com or call 760-436-2194.)
The lovely monarch butterfly is our most common garden visitor. And its favorite plant is the butterfly weed, Asclepius. This is both a nectar and a host plant. Be sure you plant plenty, because those caterpillars love to eat.
The other favorite to attract many butterflies, but no caterpillars, is the Buddleia butterfly bush. There are too many choices to list here, and you probably won’t know the names anyway. There are varieties for low water, containers or flower beds. Always look for a sunny spot, because butterflies only come to sunny places. See the plants and check out the long list at Weidner’s Gardens in the water-wise plant section.
A fun project: Make a “muddy puddle,” where butterflies, particularly males, like to get their evening moisture. You can make your own and still save water.
Take any fairly large container and bury it to the rim in front of all your butterfly-attracting plants. Fill it with sandy soil and then pour your leftover kitchen soapy dishwasher water in to make your mud puddle. Add a pinch of salt too. This is like aphrodisiac heaven to the male butterflies. Decorate the edges with shells or painted ladybug drinking rocks that your kids made at Weidner’s this weekend while you were learning. Ladybugs like to drink, too.
The hummingbirds love sun or shade. They flit around sipping that sweet nectar. Look for plants that have tubular flowers, because that’s where the honey water is.
Kangaroo paws are a favorite plant that you might not think of. This Australian native needs very good drainage. So if your soil is clay, grow it in a good-size pot. Hummers love all the salvias, but especially the blue or red ones. The hummingbird bush called Russelia is not so well known, but it is one of the best. Great long branches of red tubular flowers will sweep down a bank or over a wall. Once it is well established, it will survive on almost no water.
Hummingbirds love the shade too. Top of the list for shade is the blue dancing flower Streptocarpella. This is the prettiest hanging basket, and the hummers love it. The fuchsias called Gartenmeister love the sun. Try golden candles — Pachystachys is the real name — to light up that shady corner. Add a hummingbird feeder to make it even more enticing.
Make a butterfly and hummingbird corner near your patio where you can watch the show. Try the butterfly Buddleia bush in the corner, a sun-loving fuchsia nearby, and a Russelia in the background because it gets big.
Add in some butterfly weed and some yarrow or salvia. To bring in the yellow and black swallowtail butterflies, plant some dill, carrots and an anise plant, and let them come into bloom.