With sunny, warm days ahead, many people are taking to their gardens and may be seeking to draw butterflies, bees and hummingbirds onto their property.
When planting a garden to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators such as bees and beetles, it’s best to create cover, food sources and places for them to raise young or to lay eggs, according to the SC Wildlife Federation website.
“It’s more of the aesthetics that you are going for,” said Davis Sanders of South Pleasantburg Nursery. “You will need to plant nectar-producing flowers to attract the butterflies, forage foods for the butterflies to lay their eggs on and for the caterpillars to eat. As long as you plant the plants to attract the butterflies for nectar, then they will find their own host food and places to lay eggs. Butterflies are also attracted to flowers with a flattop bloom like a hydrangea.”
Some plants to attract butterflies include the tulip poplar, Fraser magnolia, sassafras, sourwood, wild rhododendron, bottlebrush buckeye, Florida azalea, Carolina allspice, passionflower, wild columbine and aster. In addition, certain plants attract specific butterflies, and many plants, such as black cherry and paw paw trees, can serve multiple purposes in the garden by providing food not only to wildlife but also to humans, Pat Schweitzer of Martin Garden Center in Greenville said.
“Monarchs lay eggs on the milkweed species,” said Schweitzer. “The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, the South Carolina state butterfly, is attracted to beebalm, parsley, dill and fennel.”
A butterfly garden where caterpillars thrive is beneficial to bird-watchers as well because caterpillars serve as 80% of a bird’s diet, Schweitzer said.
While a butterfly garden can allow the insects to have a safe space to nest, hummingbirds don’t lay eggs on plants.
“Hummingbirds are a little tricky,” said Sanders. “In our geographic area, we only have ruby-throated hummingbirds, and they are territorial. They chase each other off. Anything with a red flower will attract them. Anything with a tubular-shaped flower will attract them.”
Sanders recommended planting salvia, scarlet sage, pentas, petunias, million bells and hibiscus. Some additional plants that hummingbirds like are the Carolina jessamine, honeysuckle, crested iris, yarrow, dianthus abelia, buttonbush and Buddleia.
As a gardener is preparing his or her yard to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, pollinators such as bees, beetles and moths will also be attracted to some of the same plants such as herbs, sage and salvia. Attracting all the pollinators is good since 40% of all flowering plants have to be pollinated, Schweitzer said.
“There are 500-800 different bees and wasps in South Carolina,” said Schweitzer. “They are all different sizes. Also, honeybees are not native here in North America but were introduced in the early 1600s by European settlers.”
For more information on creating a garden to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and pollinators, visit scwf.org.