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Monday - December 17, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Planting, Seeds and Seeding, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Butterfly plants from Austin TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a butterfly garden in the front part of the house facing the south side. However it is also mostly under a few Oak trees that cast shadow over half of the front yard starting early afternoon. Can you tell me what native or adapted flower plants can tolerate this condition and drought tolerant as well? I had planted Butterfly Bush, Purple Coneflowers, Turk's Cap, Scarlet Sage, Mealy Blue Sage, Damianita, Frog Fruit plants,Gregg's Mistflowers, Zemenia, Blue Shade, Golden Groundsel, and Columbine. I got most of these plants from the Wildflower's plant sale or from friends in Central Texas. I also sowed seeds for Bluebonnets, Larkspur, American Basket Flower, Bachelor Button, Globe Mallow, Mimos, Canyon Daisy, Zinnia but wonder if I should not sow seeds at all. I am not sure whether I should prepare the soil better. Every time I plant something, I mixed the native soil with some compost from the Natural Gardener. But some plants like Scarlet Sage and Butterfly Bush seem to need daily watering in the hot summer. I prefer plants that can be a bit drought tolerant. Or can I amend the soil to make plants more drought tolerant. I add some mulch (what type and how thick is best?) Please advise.

ANSWER:

You are definitely starting out on the right foot as far as we are concerned, using plants native to Central Texas. Virtually anything native to this area is going to be drought tolerant or it would not have survived this long. We suggest you begin by reading our How-To Article on Butterfly Gardening. Note especially this comment in that article:

"Be mindful to give your visitors plenty of sun, yet also provide protection from wind and rain."

Also, read our Step-by-Step Guide on How to Raise a Butterfly.

Right there is going to be a small problem, as those oak trees are providing a lot of shade, as well as the interference of the oak roots and the fact that oak trees can exhibit allelopathy, which means it exudes substances to discourage competition from other plants beneath it. These substances may be found in leaves, bark or twigs. Not all plants are discouraged by allelopathic plants but it is a caution sign.

When you read our butterfly gardening article you will notice there is a list of links to our webpages on good plants for attracting butterflies and/or feeding their larvae. These include:

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)
Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana)
Buddleja marrubiifolia (woolly butterflybush)
Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm)
Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)
Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

You can follow each of those links to our webpage on that plant, where you can learn sunlight requirements (6 hours or more of sunshine = full sun, 2 -6 hours, part sun, 2 hours or less.) The webpage will also indicate watering needs, soils the plants will grow in, bloom time and color, etc. Below is the list you gave us of the plants you are already using, less the ones duplicated in the above list:

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap)

Salvia farinacea (Mealy blue sage)

Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage)

Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita)

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

Conoclinium greggii (Gregg's mistflower)

Wedelia texana (Zexmenia)

Ruellia drummondiana (Drummond's ruellia)*

Packera obovata (Golden groundsel)

Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)

*You listed 'Blue Shade,' and the only reference we could find to that is Ruellia squarrosa, 'Blue Shade,'  which is native to Mexico and therefore not in our Native Plant Database. We gave you one that is native and has similar growing conditions.

Beyond that, you should check each plant's Growing Conditions to answer your specific questions. In our extreme climate, mulching is always a good idea. See our Step-by-Step Article on Under Cover with Mulch.

Now, to the question of sowing seeds. On your list Canyon Daisy is not native, but these are:

Delphinium carolinianum (Carolina larkspur)

Sphaeralcea angustifolia (Copper globemallow)

Polygala nana (Candyroot) also known as Bachelor's Buttons

Zinnia acerosa (Desert zinnia)

We suggest you consult each webpage on the best propagation methods. Rather than sowing seeds, you might prefer to get them started in small pots in the late winter, in order to have a plant you can see to put in the ground in spring. Broadcasting seeds will invite the birds  and insects to a banquet before the little seedlings ever have a chance. There are a number of online articles on starting seeds, but this one from GardenGuides.com, Starting Seeds Indoors, will at least get you started.

 

From the Image Gallery


Woolly butterflybush
Buddleja marrubiifolia

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Scarlet sage
Salvia coccinea

Mealy blue sage
Salvia farinacea

Damianita
Chrysactinia mexicana

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Gregg's mistflower
Conoclinium greggii

Zexmenia
Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida

Drummond's ruellia
Ruellia drummondiana

Golden groundsel
Packera obovata

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

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