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Tuesday - March 31, 2009

From: Louisville, KY
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Plants for butterflies and hummingbirds in Louisville, KY
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Louisville KY. I have a waterfall and ponds connected by a small stream. I want to plant several plants around my waterfall- approx. 20 sq ft on both sides of waterfall. It's in full sun. What would be some good things to plant- I would like to attract butterflies and hummingbirds if possible.


Before we begin, let us give you some reading material to help you get started. You didn't say if you planned to have any water plants in your ponds, but it would be a shame to miss that opportunity. Our How-To Articles on Water Gardening and Butterfly Gardening (with an extensive Bibliography at the bottom) are good places to start. You can also go to the BAMONA site and learn about butterfly habitats and culture. We will begin with our Special Collections Butterflies and Moths of North America,  Narrow Your Search to Kentucky, and then to herbs (herbaceous flowering plants) and shrubs. We will then make another search in our Native Plant Database, again on Kentucky, but looking for plants that can tolerate moist soil, for the ponds. Our final search will be for herbs that we know to be hummingbird attractors. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the use and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. A good case in point is the butterfly garden; butterflies patronize only certain flowers, and there is no reason to plant something non-native to your area because the butterflies native to that area will not be bothered with it. If you have a chance, pick up the book in the Bibliography below, Bringing Nature Home-How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in our Garden.

You can repeat any of our searches, making your own selections and you should note that many of these plants do double duty, being attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds.  Follow each plant link to the page on that individual plant and learn under what conditions it flourishes, and what butterflies or birds it attracts.

Butterfly and Hummingbird Plants Native to Kentucky

Aruncus dioicus (bride's feathers)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Helianthus decapetalus (thinleaf sunflower)

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima (blackeyed Susan)

Symphyotrichum undulatum (wavyleaf aster)

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush)

Salix discolor (pussy willow)

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)

Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle)

Water Plants for Kentucky

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)

Equisetum hyemale var. affine (scouringrush horsetail)

Nymphaea odorata (American white waterlily)

Aruncus dioicus

Asclepias tuberosa

Helianthus decapetalus

Lupinus perennis

Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima

Symphyotrichum undulatum

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Salix discolor

Viburnum acerifolium

Echinacea purpurea

Lobelia cardinalis

Monarda didyma

Lonicera sempervirens

Equisetum arvense

Equisetum hyemale var. affine

Nymphaea odorata






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