Friday, August 6, 2010

Hydrangeas Bring in the Butterflies

From In the Garden
Oftentimes we get wrapped up about planting all sorts of perennials thinking they are the main attraction in the garden. Just think of all the perennials there are to choose from! It's no wonder we want perennials but the shrubs are really the leading actors in the garden-at least here at Tiger Gardens. I'll save my views on shrubs versus perennials for another post because today's post is all about swallowtails and a shrub most would never think of as attracting butterflies.

There are several really good perennials to plant in order to attract butterflies but not as many shrubs to choose from as perennials. Think butterfly weed, lantana, Joe Pye weed, salvia, hostas, zinnias, phlox, agastache, and the list goes on as far as perennials attracting butterflies. When you choose shrubs to plant for butterflies there are a few good ones out there as well. Shrubs such as Butterfly Bush, spicebush, clethra, viburnums, and a few others that will surely attract butterflies but hydrangea is not one I usually think about when I think butterflies in the garden. That has all changed this year.

From In the Garden
Hydrangeas are my favorite shrub and I can't get enough of them, though this year and most years I really kind of dread summertime because it is mainly ONLY the hydrangeas that require supplemental watering. Technically this should not be so for most of them but it is unfortunately a sad fact of life for me here at Tiger Gardens-watering. I think watering is worth it though because for the majority of the year the hydrangeas give and give and give. Hydrangeas are a sentimental shrub for me and I just can't help but to love those big ole blooms.

I grow all types of hydrangeas; the quercifolias, the paniculatas, the arborescens, the macrophyllas, and the even a climbing hydrangea. There are probably more types but I can't think of them now and I only grow these four genuses so I will limit myself to only them on this blog. Midsummer and late summer in my garden belongs to the paniculata hydrangeas so we'll talk of them today. And wow! They are looking pretty good this year. Pictured in this particular post is Hydrangea paniculata 'Pink Diamond'. I also grow Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva', and Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora' (not yet in bloom) and Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' (just coming into bloom). The 'Pink Diamond' and 'Tardiva' are very near one another (just across a chain link fence. Both are in full bloom right now. The 'Tardiva' grows in the Northside Shrub Border while the 'Pink Diamond' is in the Woodland Garden. Both hydrangeas are near the Joe Pye weed I just posted about this Wednesday.

From In the Garden

I've grown my paniculatas for about six years and I find them a hardy lot that requires little care. I do cut them back in February each year and that is about it. Paniculatas bloom on new wood and cutting them back does not affect the summer blooms. If you don't cut them back they can get mighty leggy and not so attractive. I rarely have to water these hydrangeas but they occasionally get pretty limp and appreciate a good drink of water. One unexpected advantage of these summer blooming hydrangeas are the butterflies. There are as many butterflies on the blooms of the hydrangeas as there are on the Joe Pye Weed-what a sight! I think the fact that these blooms are so prominent and all centrally located on the shrub helps to congregate all the butterflies (mainly swallowtails) in one location. It is a sight to see indeed. So, when thinking attracting butterflies think outside of the box and plant a wide variety of shrubs and be sure to include a few paniculatas....

in the garden....

What shrubs in your garden besides butterfly bush attract butterflies?


Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team,

In the Garden

33 comments:

  1. Lovely photos of your Swallowtails. I have never seen so many tigers and so late as this year. Bees too love the airy blooms Hydrangeas. Thanks for the tip about cutting them back in Feb. My Buddleia too is usually covered with a variety of flutterbys. Inspiring post!

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  2. Good morning Carol, You have some lovely butterflies in your Massachusetts garden-so many monarchs too! Those buddleias sure do bring in the butterflies!

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  3. Tina I am slowly adding to my hydrangeas, I love them as well. If I get a loofah,I'll save you some seeds, okay?

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  4. Sure Darla, That would be great! I don't know anything about growing them but I'll learn for sure.

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  5. They are like squash and pumpkins, that family. They need a long growing season and water..and a strong support to grow on..this is my first year with them. I'm learning as I go.

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  6. Nepeta, Sedum, are the main attractors, I haven't tried Joe Pye weed and that is on my "get" list now. Your butterfly shot is amazing!

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  7. I've noticed the butterflies on my Limelight this year for the first time. Maybe I never paid attention before huh? ;)

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  8. I never thought of my hydranga as a butterfly shrub, I'll have to check.
    Beautiful photos.

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  9. Don't think I have ever noticed my hydrangea ever having butterflys but I will be on the lookout when I am out there now. It sure is a shrub that does give and give. The blooms last a long time and are so stunning and the only thing I ever do to mine is cut it back in the spring and I might as well be honest and say I had never even done that untill you started your blog and I learned it from you. Now how sad is that? It sure has been a star for 30 years, even without being cut back but I must admit it is much better now. This year it was really something else, the blue was so bright and vivid. Still has several blooms but they are going bye bye.

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  10. Good morning. I used to grow the native Hydrangea arborescens (our local boutique garden center sold it to me as Annabelle). Anyway the butterflies and bees loved it. Now I only have Annabell and have never seen an insect of any kind on her. I like Tardiva and Limelight (never seen Pink Diamond). Might try one of those. Hydrangeas are just one of those plants that I make exceptions for. They get a drought tolerant waiver:)

    This has been a fabulous year for butterflies.
    Marnie

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  11. I'm amazed at what great shots you get of butterflies. How do you get so close up?
    They must just love your flowers. You seem to get much fancier butterflies than I do in my garden.

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  12. Nice butterfly pictures! I'm a big fan of the hydrangeas too. I just need more shade!

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  13. Darla, I'll be watching for you with the loofahs. They do grow up here because I've seen an organic garden on tv that featured them. Too neat!

    Rosey, Thanks!

    Racquel, It has been such a banner year maybe they just weren't as noticeable? It's a treat though!

    Dawn, Yup, check it out. They are swarming mine and it is super great.

    Mom, It is quite a nice hydrangea-grows here too:) But with the bigheads you don't trim them the same way you trim the paniculatas. You just cut out the dead branches right? The mophead bloom on old growth so you'd lose blooms if you cut them down completely-at least for the year unless it is a rebloomer. Hmmm. Regardless, you've been doing something right all these years with it!

    Marne, The paniculatas are actually a better type of hydrangea than the 'Annabelle' (arborescens) IMHO. They normally don't require water but even the hardiest of plants need a drink when the ground is bone dry for weeks like it has been this year. Tardiva, Limelight, and Pink Diamond stand up nicely and hold blooms for a long time. Annabelles flop-badly. The PG is a larger shrub that cascades its blooms so a different form than the other three. I like them all but they all have their special uses. Right now I am designing a new garden (lost the pool so gained a huge new garden area) and I'll be paying attention the form more than anything on the hydrangeas. Tardiva and Pink Diamond look very similar.

    Megan, Not so close really. About 2-3 feet away. I zoom in with the macro for the close shots. It works some of the time, some not so good. The swallowtails are pretty fancy for sure.

    Dave, It is a coming and then you'll be redesigning I think:)

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  14. Good Morning all. I have been enjoying watching a family of Blue Jays taking baths in the birdbath. They are having the best time splashing around...

    Tina, can you believe I do not have one Hydrangea in my Gardens? That is almost not right for a Southern Gardener. I hope they dont boot me out of the Deep South for that mistake. LOL. I should invest in at least one expecially now that I know the Butterflies like them....

    Would Fall planting be okay for one or better wait for Spring planting?

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  15. We'll keep you Skeeter. Fall planting is for sure best for hydrangeas. Only a few shrubs need spring planting.

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  16. I think I have (looks around) 60+ shrubs and not one freakin' hydrangea, lol. Really want to get one, though. :)

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  17. Okay, I will be on the lookout for a bargain one this fall....

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  18. Liatrus (looks like a purple bottle brush) seem to be attracting some here. My hydrangea are not doing well,unfortunately. I should water them, but I have to give the veggies priority! What are you gonna do? Something has to suffer.

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  19. I had no idea the paniculatas would attract butterflies, I've planted two this year so hopefully next year I'll see some more butterflies.
    I can't think of any other shrub they visit besides butterfly bush in my yard. They do seem to like my neighbor's willow tree though.

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  20. I have a row of water hogging hydrangea macrophylla that are pretty but don't attract any butterflies. :( However, my rose of sharon, spirea 'Pink Princess' and ceanothus (Blue Mist Spirea) all attract butterflies. Deutzia and Itea (Sweetspire) attract a lot of honey bees.

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  21. Fabulous info about Hydrangeas Tina. I think I figured out that hydrangeas need lots of water. After I cut back my lone paniculata I gave it lots of water and have continued too along with all the other new plants to get them established. It has responded with lots of growth, although I haven't seen any flowers, There still might be time.

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  22. Beautiful pics. Love those butterflies. Sadly I won't have any this yr. as they just sprayed for 'skeeters' the other night so all insects are gone. Even my dragon flies are gone. The pic I sent you was a dbl wing like dbl wing airplanes. That was unusual.
    My hydrangea is still very small {planted on NE corner of house} & not blooming yet. I think I should move it. I also have a smaller one that I could experiment with.

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  23. Your hydrangeas really look like butterfly magnets! Even in my mild coastal zone hydrangeas behave like giant green sponges that require lots of water during the 5 to 9 months we go without significant rain. Fortunately we have lots of drought loving natives that keep our butterflies fed, plants like ceanothus, mallow, buckwheat, deerweed and gooseberries.

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  24. Hydrangeas are such beauties, but when decorated with butterflies, it only adds to the magic! You're so fortunate to have so many.

    In my garden -- Butterflies like buddleia, hypericum, spirea, caryopteris and crepe myrtles.

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  25. Hi Tina! As some other readers, I also didn't think about H. as a butterfly plant. I will certainly pay attention now. Thanks! Photos are high class!

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  26. Can I come sit by your hydrangeas? It looks like a wonderful spot.

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  27. Tina,
    How did I miss this post? Anyway the tiger swallowtails on the hydrangeas is likely not an event you should expect every year. because of the abundance of tiger swallowtails this year they hit any flowers they see.

    I saw this once in VA when we counted seeing 900 (yes 900) Pipevine Swallowtails in a few miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Peaks of Otter. We even saw the pipevines nectaring on Indian Mullion spikes.

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  28. Wow, gorgeous photos, and the models too. Really good post, much enjoyed.I will have to check in again, this was my first time to your blog.

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  29. Fantastic photos, tina!
    I was very surprised to find those gorgeous butterflies sucking nectar from the blooms. I've never seen such a magical event. I've found a few caterpillars on the leaves of my cotton rose(Hibiscus mutabilis). I'm wondering what type of butterfly or moth will hatch out from their cocoons.

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  30. I've never seen a butterfly on my lone hydrangea. Maybe because they're all over on the dame's rocket (hesperis matronalis)? Or on the oregano? Those are my two biggest butterfly attractions at the moment. My mother had hydrangeas and was constantly fretting about having the right kind of soil - is that a big concern? I have no experience myself.

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  31. Wow! What a Lovely photos of your Swallowtails.I just loved it and from my bottom of heart I would like to say that thank you so much for sharing it.

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  32. Wonderful shots of the butterflies, Tina. You're so right. This has happened to me too. I thought butterflies were attracted towards Jasmines primarily and had Leucas few feet away from them, but this summer I noticed that butterflies were attracted towards Leucas (a plant that you least expect a visit from butterflies) and lesser lot visited the Jasmines!

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  33. You know I love hydrangeas, but I've never really noticed butterflies being attracted to them before. Maybe it's because mine are all in the shade garden and not a lot of other butterfly-attracting plants are in there. My hydrangeas also definitely need frequent waterings. I bought a new 'Pink Diamond' on sale, and three days later it looked dead! The nursery told me to prune the blooms and water it twice a day, but I'm thinking I'm going to ask for a replacement--I've never had anything die so quickly for me before.

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