(Butterfly Weed) Butterfly Weed produces flat-topped umbels of tiny, star-shaped flowers atop narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Bright orange and nectar-rich, they bloom from summer into fall.
This is a drought-resistant member of the Milkweed genus (Asclepias spp.), which 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.
Butterfly Weed is a heat- and cold-tolerant plant that forms upright clumps reaching up to 36 inches tall when in bloom and spreading 36 inches wide. Although slow to emerge in spring, it is a reliable perennial. Planting bulb flowers in the same area can help to mark its location.
Milkweeds are American natives. Aside from butterfly gardens, they are ideal for prairie and dry landscapes, but generally grow well in any well drained soil.
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.
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.
This plant grows well in partial shade, such as the kind on the edge of woodlands or under deciduous trees with breaks in the foliage through which dappled sunlight penetrates. Many Salvias thrive in partial shade, including ones that spend part of their day in full sunlight. Some species need partial shade to overcome severe heat and dry soil.
This herbaceous plant is known for its use in folk remedies.
Salvias have been used as healing herbs by a wide variety of cultures in the Americas, Europe and Asia. The genus name is from the Latin term “salvare,” which means to save.
When considering application of an herbal remedy to treat a medical problem, be sure to consult a physician first.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
In the right locale, this plant survives and thrives despite minimal summer water.
Drought resistance is an important characteristic of xeriscapic – dry landscape – plants, a category that includes a multitude of Salvias. Many low-water Salvias are native to parts of the world with little rainfall all year or regions where summers are dry and winters are wet.
Nevertheless, there are also drought-resistant Salvias for places such as Florida where winters are dry and summers are wet.
Honeybees love this plant’s nectar. As a honeybee burrows down into a Salvia’s nectar-rich flowers to reach dinner, it accidentally gathers pollen and drops it on the stigma of that blossom or of ones on other nearby Salvias. Fertilization results in seed production.
By growing honeybee favorites, you attract these helpful pollinators to all your flowering plants and increase productivity
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.
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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2019
Although America has many native milkweeds, choosing the right one for your garden partly depends on plant and seed availability. Limitations sometimes cause gardeners to select nonnative Tropical Milkweed. Flowers by the Sea helps gardeners nationwide to increase milkweed habitat, which Monarch Butterflies need as host and nectar plants. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the Everything Salvias Blog and is based on calls and emails from customers.
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