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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - January 06, 2012

From: Mansfield, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Butterfly Gardens
Title: Will Butterfly Plant Survive in Mansfield, Texas
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus

QUESTION:

I have a butterfly plant that was very successful (about 4 feet tall) right up until the cold snap three weeks ago. I've read they have a tap root, so I'm hoping it will come back next spring. Meanwhile, what do I do with the crispy leaves and some of the mushy stems? Thanks!

ANSWER:

I suspect that your plant is not a native, but you do not give enough information for me to determine even that.  To answer your question, I would first check the plant description that came with the plant and see if you can find its scientific name. Then research it by the scientific name since so many plants are called butterfly weed, butterfly bush, etc.

The only plant that had the actual name of butterfly plant, that I could find was a native of Brazil.  Mr. Smarty Plants only answers questions about natives. If you don't have the plant label, check with the nursery from which you bought it.  If you didn't buy it from a nursery, you may be able to find out more about this plant by matching up pictures on line to what you know you had.

If you find you have to replace it, you may want to grow some native shrubs or herbs that attract butterflies with nector or serve as the host to a butterfly.

Under Recommended Species on our webpage you can find a list of natives to your area, North Central Texas. Then you can narrow your search for plants that do well in the growing conditions for light and water that your garden has. Then just look at each plant and see if butterflies use it, or it has the flowers you would like.  You can also narrow that list by GENERAL APPEARANCE (e.g., herbs, shrubs, etc.) to find the kind of plant you want.

For right now, you can cut the plant back to the ground.  Then wait to see if it will come back or research its cold hardiness, and be prepared to replace it, hopefully with a native that will also help your local bugs, butterflies, and birds, late this winter or early next spring.

If you are interested in plants that attract butterflies, you might want to read Butterfly Gardening, in our How To Section under Explore Plants.

Here are a few of my favorite plants for butterflies.

 

From the Image Gallery


Mountain sage
Salvia regla

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida

Pink-scale blazing star
Liatris elegans

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