En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Non-invasive plants for hummingbird and butterfly garden

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
9 ratings

Tuesday - January 20, 2009

From: Lincoln, NE
Region: Midwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Non-invasive plants for hummingbird and butterfly garden
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello :) I've been building a huge Hummingbird and Butterfly garden. Up until now I've only had the Milkweeds and Dill for host plants for the Monarch and Black Swallowtail Butterflies. I'd love to add more host plants, but a few I'm quite apprehensive about getting: False Nettle (invasive).for the Red Admiral and the Question Mark Rue (caution needed for handling and proximity to other plants).for the Giant Swallowtail Cassia (invasive).for the Cloudless Sulphur Toadflax (invasive).for the Buckeye Plantain (invasive).also for the Buckeye I'd like to be able to plant one or two of each of these without having a nightmare. I've dealt with some invasive plants. Currently on our property we have several Butterfly Bushes which are considered invasive. I make sure I de-head the spent blooms on a regular basis so there is no problem. On the other hand, we had a Trumpet Creeper vine that became a real issue and we are still dealing with the runners from that plant we had escavated. So my question is, can you tell me which of the above plants from that list of host plants I'd like to add to our yard/gardens.are any of them a major concern? Controlable?.or should I not even consider them unless we have 20 acres.LOL Bless you for your time, Susan

ANSWER:

First of all, let me emphasize what we are all about here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

"The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes."

That said, we won't recommend any species not native to North America.  Here is a rundown of the species you mention:

Anethum graveolens (dill) is not native to North America (native to Asia).

Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle) is native to North America and not considered invasive.

Ruta graveolens (common rue) is native to southern Europe and Africa, not native to North America.

I'm not sure which species of Cassia you are refering to, but Cassia fistula (golden shower) occurs in Florida and, although it is not native (native to Asia), it is not considered invasive there.

Comandra umbellata (bastard toadflax) is native and not invasive as far as I can find.  It is hemi-parasitic; that is, even though it is green and photosynthesizes much of its food, its roots also attach to other plants growing nearby and acquire some of its food and water from them.

There are many species of plantains (Genus Plantago).  Among them, Plantago aristata (largebracted plantain), native to North America, and Plantago lanceolata (narrowleaf plantain), not native, are both on the Federal and State Noxious Weeds list.  I don't know which plantain you refer to, but there are many plantains that are native and not invasive or noxious.

You can find a list of native plants that are hosts for butterflies and moths of North America on our webpage.  On that page you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to select plants native to Nebraska and will have the best chance of thriving there. For instance, you will see that there are seven different species of Asclepias native to Nebraska that serve as larval hosts to monarch (Danaus plexippus) and queen (D. gilippus) butterflies.

You can find a list of List of Butterflies of Nebraska and by clicking on the butterfly species, you will find both larval and adult hosts for each species.

There is also a Nebraska Butterfly Association page with a Butterfly Gardening article with lists  of plants, both larval and adult hosts.  You can check the nativity of the plants by searching our Native Plant Database.  Still another website, Butterflies of Nebraska, has a list of plants that are hosts to butterflies, but they don't link the plants to a particular butterfly.  Most of the plants appear to be native to North America, but, again, you can check them against the Native Plant Database to be sure.

You can find numerous books on butterflies and butterfly gardening in our Native Plant Bibliography.  For instance, although its focus is on the South, Butterfly Gardening for the South (Geyata Ajilvsgi, 1991) is an excellent book with photos of many butterflies and information on their host plants.  There is also much information and photos of the plants that are recommended.

We do urge you to avoid using non-native plants and to, instead, use plants native to Nebraska in your garden. The natives are adapted to your environment and are more likely to thrive there using less water and fertilizer than non-natives.

 

 

 

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Landscaping plans in Kyle TX
February 12, 2012 - I am starting from scratch in a backyard (approx. 52'x25')in Central Texas (Kyle). The backyard is on the north side of the single story house. I would like to have plants and trees that attract and...
view the full question and answer

Dieback of Indigo Spires and whirling butterfly
June 02, 2008 - I have an Indigo Spires plant that is turning yellow and dying back. I have fed it but nothing seems to perk it up. I also have whirling butterfly plants that are losing leaves and dying back. What...
view the full question and answer

Hardy plants for Oklahoma raised garden at Oklahoma school
February 12, 2014 - I am planting a raised flower bed with fifth graders. It will have a little shade in the morning and evening possibly. What plants are durable and can withstand OK summer heat. We will be planting ...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly gardening in Wood County, TX
February 11, 2009 - What food and host plants should be planted for butterflies in Wood County Texas.
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant with small lilac flowers in Laredo
May 14, 2013 - Need help identifying the following: small lilac flowers in a cluster with seed pods, unpleasant scent which can be up to 3 feet tall ..wild flower or weed? am interested if it attracts hummingbirds...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center