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Butterfly and pollinator garden

by Timber Press on January 15, 2019

in Design, Gardening

We depend on butterflies and other pollinators to fertilize flowers and make possible the production of our vegetables and fruits, as well as the seeds for our garden flowers. Yet these beneficial insects are declining in number, largely because of a loss of habitat. With this garden, you can do your part to reverse that trend, and at the same time fill your landscape with fluttering, jewel-like colors. Who could refuse that combination?

Site: full sun
Hardiness zone: 5-9

What’s more, this garden will furnish an eye- and nose-pleasing assortment of flowers all summer long. They will even draw hummingbirds, another welcome bonus. All in all, you’re likely to find yourself enjoying this plot as much as the butterflies do.

When to Plant
Plant butterfly bushes and autumn stonecrops after the average date of your last spring frost and when soil has drained sufficiently to be dug. Plant salvias, lantanas, flossflower, bidens, and catmint when daytime and nighttime temperatures remain at or above 60°F.

Peak Display
The annuals (lantanas and salvias) will bloom from spring to frost; the butterfly bush (a non-invasive hybrid) blooms from midsummer to late fall; and the autumn stonecrop (perennial in zones 3–9) blooms, as its name suggests, in early fall.

  1. Locate (here along a fence) and plant the butterfly bushes first as focal points around which you will build the garden. Allow each shrub a space 5–6 feet across.
  2. Intermingle the salvias and autumn stonecrops in front of the butterfly bushes. Allow each salvia a space 12–18 inches across, and each autumn stonecrop 26–28 inches across.
  3. Accent the salvias and stonecrops with spots of catmint, flossflower, and bidens.
  4. Plant the lantanas as a broad edging in the front of the garden. Each lantana needs a space 20–24 inches across.


A 3 Butterfly bushes: Buddleia ‘Miss Molly’ (mature height and spread 48–60 in.)


B 6 Salvias: Salvia splendens purple cultivar (mature height 18–26 in., spread 12–18 in.)


C 2 Autumn stonecrops: Sedum Rock ‘n Grow ‘Lemonjade’ (mature height 16–18 in., spread 26–28 in.)


D 1 Catmint: Nepeta faassenii ‘Cat’s Meow’ (mature height 17–20 in., spread 12–18 in.)


E 1 Flossflower: Ageratum artist Purple (mature height 8–12 in., spread 6–10 in.)


F 3 Bidens: Bidens ferulifolia goldilocks rocks (mature height 12–14 in., spread 14–18 in.)


G 8 Latanas: Lantana camara luscious Lemonade (mature height 24–36 in., spread 20–24 in.)



Ruth Rogers Clausen has received the GWA Gold Award, and she was the horticulture editor for Country Living Gardener for more than seven years.




Thomas Christopher writes about horticulture for The New York Times, The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, and Horticulture Magazine. He is also a columnist for House & Garden and a contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living.



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