I spent the evening of April 23 watching the radar app on my phone, hopeful the thunderstorm located above us would continue to track here. The violent storm brought much needed rain, drenching the garden and filling my water catchment system. Rain and hail pelted the ranch, filling tanks with water.
The rain was a blessing to a garden in recovery, making all plants in the garden greener. Best of all there is a promise of rain in the forecast.
After the destruction of Uri, all that bare soil demands action. Seems like the perfect time to plant for pollinators. The destruction from the freeze has left room for all sizes and types of plants that will provide shelter or food. The plants listed are low maintenance and will provide beautiful color while attracting butterflies, bees and birds.
Ornamental trees and shrubs to consider include old garden favorites like Tinus Viburum. This beautiful shrub is versatile in its light requirements enjoying sun, partial shade, to full shade. The shrub has dark green, leathery leaves and lightly fragrant white flowers tinged with pink in the spring. It’s good for providing shelter from wind and predators and will reach four feet tall by three feet wide.
Spiraea is another family of shrubs that should be added to your garden. Elegant flowering shrubs, they vary in form, height and flowering season and flourish in sun to partial shade. ‘Bridal Wreath’, a showy white spiraea, is one of the best known and can be used as a specimen or a border. ‘Anthony Waters’, a spring and summer bloomer has reddish pink flowers. There are varieties that are perfect for low borders and rock gardens. Mature sizes range from 2ft. tall by 2 ft. wide for low varieties to 6ft. tall by 5ft. wide for large varieties.
Vitex, one of my favorites, is sometimes called Lavender Tree or Pepper Tree. It is a fast growing, small, multi-trunked, ornamental tree with aromatic leaves. Lavender blue flower spikes appear in summer and fall. It is drought tolerant once established and can reach 20 ft. tall by 15 ft. wide.
Buddleia, commonly called the Butterfly Bush or Summer Lilac, is a deciduous bush that enjoys sun to partial shade. It produces long spikes of fragrant flowers that range in color from white to dark purple. It blooms on new growth from early summer till fall and is drought tolerant once established. The shrub can suffer freeze damage but will return from the roots. Depending on the variety, the mature size can reach 3ft - 8ft. tall by 4ft. - 6ft. wide.
Lantana is a sun lover with clusters of brilliant yellow, orange, white, red, lavender or multi-colored flower clusters that bloom from spring to fall. The low growing shrubs are heat and drought tolerant once established. Mature shrubs grow 2ft. to 3ft. tall and wide.
Gaillardia, commonly known as the Blanket flower, has daisy-like flowers with outer rays that can be solid or bi-colored and a central eye that can be yellow, brown or purple. The flowers are 3-4” across and bloom abundantly from early summer to first frost. It’s a great plant for the front of borders and is very tolerant of drought and heat. Shear occasionally to keep plants compact. Gaillardia enjoys well-drained soil.
Mealy Cup Sage, a Texas native, forms medium height mounds with pale blue spike from spring until frost. Indigo Spires Sage is relatively new salvia which forms tall to very tall large spreading mounds with large spikes of intense, rich blue-purple flowers from spring until frost. Mexican Bush Sage forms very tall mounds of graceful grayish-green foliage with long, slender, velvety purple flower spikes from late summer to fall. Scarlet Sage forms medium height mounds with spikes of fiery red blooms from spring until frost and should be planted in sun to partial shade. All but Scarlet Sage should be planted in full sun. Sages are drought and heat tolerant once established and attracts hummingbirds as well as butterflies.
Pentas are tender perennials that reach 2-3ft. in height and width and have star-shaped clusters of flowers in pink, violet, red or white blooms from summer through fall. Remove spent flowers for season long bloom. Pentas benefit from a little afternoon shade and are a butterfly magnet.
Coreopsis is a mainstay of the pollinator garden. Their bright golden yellow daisy-like flowers dance in the breeze on long stems above a rosette of green foliage. Coreopsis should be planted at the front of flower border. They are heat and drought tolerant and enjoy sun to part shade.
Gregg’s Mist Flower (Eupatorium) is a native that needs full sun. It is a weak stemmed plant that should be planted in full sun and sprawls with wide clusters of fluffy lavender flowers similar in form to those of floss flower. They bloom from spring to fall and are drought tolerant. The mist flower attracts Queen butterflies.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) produces large rose-purple flowers. The blooms appear on long stems from a rosette of rich green leaves. They should be planted in sun to part shade. The large, daisy-like flowers with blooms in late spring to fall and are drought tolerant once established.
Daylily (Hemerocallis) is a workhorse in the garden. They thrive in sun to part shade. The blooms come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Daylilies should be planted in drifts for the most impact. They are drought and heat tolerant once established.
Butterfly Flower (Asclepias tuberosa) should be planted in full sun. The flowers are a brilliant bright orange that grow in clusters atop small, dark green leaves from early summer until fall. The plants will grow well in most soils. Flowers attract hummingbirds as well as butterflies.
Passion Vine (Passiflora) is a vine that serves as a favorite food for the caterpillars of several butterflies – Julia longwing, zebra longwing, and the Gulf fritillary. The parts of the blooms symbolize the passion of Christ – the circle of whisker like filaments represents the crown of thorns; the five stamens, the five wounds; the five petals and five sepals, the 10 steadfast apostles.
As far as butterflies are concerned, you can’t have too many flowers. Plant flowers in large groups or clumps. Choose the sunniest spot in your garden to plant nectar flowers. Plant groups of similar colored flowers together. Red is their favorite color. Protect beds of nectar flowers from the prevailing wind.
This is only a partial list as there are many more plants that will attract pollinators to the garden.