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posted: 7/13/2013 1:00 AM

Invite hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden

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  • Provide feeders so hummingbirds have a constant source of nectar.

    Provide feeders so hummingbirds have a constant source of nectar.

  • A monarch drinks nectar from a zinnia.

    A monarch drinks nectar from a zinnia.

By Diana Stoll
The Planter’s Palette

There is a diversity of wildlife that call your garden home, but none are as welcomed as butterflies and hummingbirds. These brightly colored winged guests are attracted to a wide assortment of annuals, perennials, vines, shrubs and trees. Their habitat requires plants and places for shelter, food and water, nesting, laying eggs and feeding their young.

Hummingbird flowers are often red, but can also be orange, pink, purple and blue. As long as they are rich in nectar and tubular shaped, hummingbirds will love them. Annuals that are attractive to hummingbirds include fuchsias, lantana, morning glory and scarlet runner bean vines, petunias, salvia, shrimp plants and snapdragons. Perennials include beebalm, columbine, coralbells, crocosmia, foxglove, lobelia, penstemon, trumpet and honeysuckle vines and more.

Nectar plants are just one source of food for hummingbirds. They also eat small bugs on flowers or in spider webs and can catch small insects while in flight. They drink water from shallow birdbaths, dew on leaves or from the mist of a sprinkler system.

Supplemental feeders provide a constant food source when flowers are not in bloom.

Hummingbirds seek shelter in the branches of dense shrubs. Plant these close to flowers so they don't waste energy flying to their next meal.

Flowers that attract butterflies are sun lovers. Butterflies prefer fragrant flowers that are red, purple, lavender, yellow, orange and white. Most are made up of many small flowers arranged in a flattened cluster; however, butterflies will also visit large flowers.

There are many nectar-filled flowers butterflies enjoy, but some annuals sure to be visited include ageratum, heliotrope, lantana, marigolds, pentas, verbena and zinnia. Perennials include butterfly weed, coreopsis, gaillardia, joe-pye weed, liatris, phlox, purple coneflower and sedum.

Butterflies need sunshine to warm their bodies to at least 85 degrees in order to fly. Place a few large rocks in your garden where they can sun themselves, with wings open, in the morning. Surround your garden with small trees and shrubs so butterflies have a place for shelter on cloudy, windy or rainy days.

Female butterflies will seek out specific plants on which to lay their eggs. Monarchs look for plants in the milkweed family. Swallowtails look for fennel. Other caterpillar food sources include dill, rue, asters, baptisia, hollyhocks, turtlehead, violets, dogwoods, willows and grasses.

Plant these larval food sources near the back of the landscape where you won't mind plants with caterpillar-chewed leaves. Limit your use of insecticides that can harm caterpillars or butterflies.

Send out an invitation to hummingbirds and butterflies by adding a few carefully chosen plants, providing a source of water and creating a place for shelter and nesting. Then sit back, relax and enjoy the party in your garden.

• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, ext. 2, or visit

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