(White Swamp Milkweed) Umbels of tiny, star-shaped flowers bloom from summer into fall forming clouds of white amid the dark green, slender, lance-shaped leaves of Ice Ballet. Although this is a water-lover comfortable in rain gardens and by the side of ponds, Ice Ballet can get by with average watering based on local conditions.
As its common name implies, this plant is a great solution for saturated soils. Plus, it tolerates heat, cold and clay soils. Grow it as part of a tall perennial border in a sunny location. It forms upright clumps reaching up to 48 inches tall when in bloom and spreads 36 inches wide. Although slow to emerge in spring, it is a reliable perennial in USDA Zones 3 to 9. Planting bulb flowers in the same area can help to mark its location.
The Milkweed genus (Asclepias spp.) is native to America. It is particularly important to the endangered Monarch butterfly. Monarchs will only lay their eggs on Milkweeds. The roughness of the species’ fuzzy foliage makes it easy for eggs and chrysalises to connect. Monarch caterpillars consume powerful chemicals in the leaves which protect them as babies and adults against predators for whom the chemicals are toxic.
In spring 2013, The New York Times reported a precipitous decline in the Monarch butterfly migration due to causes including North America’s rapidly decreasing supply of Milkweed growing wild in agricultural fields. According to The Times , the increasing use of seed genetically modified to withstand herbicides has eliminated at least 120 million acres of Monarch habitat.
Backyard gardeners can help butterflies, including Monarchs, by planting nectar and host plants. Similar to predators, deer avoid Milkweeds.
Here are some guidelines for success with this plant in your garden.
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This plant needs or tolerates more than six hours of intense sunlight daily. Many Salvias only thrive in wide-open locations where they receive long hours of full sun. However, full-sun species sometimes tolerate a bit of partial shade. Or a Salvia that loves partial shade may be amenable to spending part of its time in full sun.
In general, this sun/shade adaptability shows up in Salvias that do best in cooler climates when grown in full sun and thrive in hot climates when partial shade is available. So full-sun Salvias sometimes are also categorized as partial-shade plants and vice versa.
This plant can handle extreme heat.
Full-sun Salvias that don’t like any shade are among the most heat tolerant. Heat-loving Salvias also are often drought tolerant. Moisture-conserving features, such as fuzzy leaves, help them stay perky at high temperatures.
Heat-tolerant Salvias are fine choices for western and southern exposures.
When growing a fragrance garden, this is a good selection.
Most Salvias have pleasant scents, but some are intoxicatingly fragrant. Some are short enough for border plantings that release a heady perfume as you brush against them when strolling along a path. Other taller types make good landscape highlights, particularly by doors where their scent can be enjoyed on entry and exit.
To create a harmonious landscape plan, it is important to consider the heights of individual plants.
Height also affects function. Short Salvias often make excellent ground covers that conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds while also brightening your yard. Medium-height Salvias, such as ones 36 inches tall, often are ideal border plants. A tall Salvia planted singly can highlight a landscape; multiple plantings can form an attractive screen.
Plant this herbaceous species in the USDA Zones where it grows as a perennial, returning year after year.
After dying back to the ground at frost, herbaceous perennials emerge in the Spring with soft, new growth. A Salvia that is perennial in one region, may be an annual in another depending on local conditions, such as winter temperatures.
If you live in USDA Zone 5, for example, Salvias in our catalog cited as growing well in Zone 5 or lower will be perennial. Those cited as doing well in Zones 6 or higher may do well in Zone 5, but generally will act like annuals coming back from seed instead of the parent plant’s roots.
By considering the width of a plant, you can determine how many to place in a row or what other plants to grow with it.
For example, a narrow, moderate-height Salvia may look good interplanted with bushier species, kind of like Mutt and Jeff.
In contrast, wide-spreading Salvias are economical for hiding lengths of wall and fence or for creating hedge-like divisions in a yard.
Plant hardiness Zones defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture tell you the minimum temperatures a plant can withstand in your garden. The USDA divides the nation into winter climate areas from coldest (Zone 1) to warmest (Zone 11).
However, it is sometimes possible to grow a Zone 6 Salvia as a perennial in Zone 5 if you provide preferential care, such as winter mulching and a location sheltered from harsh winds. In contrast, a Zone 9 Salvia may act like a perennial in Zone 10 if given a bit of shade or extra water.
This plant needs regular watering based on what is appropriate to your local conditions.
In some extremely hot, arid climates, this may mean daily watering in Summer. Although many drought-resistant Salvias survive on little to no watering due to local rainfall and deep roots meeting their moisture needs, others need regular doses. The size and frequency of the dose depends on your climate.
This plant thrives on or at least tolerates lots of water, especially when soil is well drained. They are generally not suitable for poorly drained soils.
A number of Salvias hold up well in areas where rainfall is a regular occurrence. Some even tolerate boggy conditions but only for a brief time. These are usually top-notch plants for regions of the country, such as the Southeast, where summers are soggy.
This plant attracts butterflies whether for nectar or as a host for their caterpillars. Some butterflies feed on a limited range of flowering plants and only lay eggs on one kind of host plant. Salvia nectar lures adult butterflies. Placing host plants, such as Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), next to nectar plants builds butterfly habitat. In exchange, the butterflies improve fertility in your garden through pollination.
(Swamp Milkweed) The light green of this Milkweed's slender, lance-shaped leaves compliment its rose-pink umbels of tiny, star-shaped flowers that smell like vanilla. As its common name implies, this plant is a great solution for saturated soils, such as in rain gardens and the edge of ponds. Yet it can get by on average watering based on local conditions.
(Queen Victoria Cardinal Flower) Calling all butterfly and hummingbird lovers in areas with chilly winters: This one's for you. Lobelias are well known for attracting pollinators. This one is extremely cold tolerant and even does well in the Rocky Mountain West.