Add Butterflies to Your Garden
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

At the March, 2014, meeting of the Houston Rose Society the featured speaker was Frank Wells, a consulting rosarian from Odessa. He spoke about irrigation systems, which are vital components in gardening in drought-stricken West Texas.

Almost as an aside, he showed pictures of a drought-tolerant plant he liked called Gregg’s Mistflower. Its scientific name is most commonly listed as Conoclinium greggi.It is sometimes listed as Eupatorium greggi. It is a 24 to 36 inch high perennial that grows in both full sun and part shade. The more sun, the more blooms. The blooms are lavender blue and borne in small clusters that give a mist-like appearance that earns this native to Texas plant its common name of Gregg’s Mistflower.

The plant may freeze back in winter, but it is hardy to Zone 7 and comes back from its roots at temperatures above zero. And hardy roots they are. The plant spreads by means of it s underground roots and it spreads rapidly in good garden soil. It can also be propagated by softwood cuttings.

Mr. Wells showed pictures of Gregg’s Mistflower in his garden. It was covered in Monarch butterflies. The pictures were almost unbelievable. I think the entire audience was astonished by the profusion of butterflies.

I had heard of Gregg’s Mistflower before the meeting, but it had not registered any particular interest on my part until I saw the slides. After that, I had to have one. Or three. Or five.

I was at Nelson Water Gardens and Nursery in Katy in April and they were selling the plant. I got one to try. Within minutes of planting the single plant a Monarch butterfly appeared to check it out. By the next morning two Monarchs were constantly hovering over the plant. I rushed to Buchanan’s Native Plants in the Heights and purchased four more plants. Into the bed they went. By that afternoon there were five butterflies that were visiting my new plantings.

Since then, we always have between three to five Monarch and Queen butterflies hovering about. And the plants have only been in the ground for a couple of months and the plants have been in constant bloom since planting.

We planted the Gregg’s Mistflower about ten feet from some Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) , and the butterflies like those plants too. But the fact is that we had the Butterfly Weed long before we got the Gregg’s Mistflowers, and we only got the great crop of Monarchs when we planted Gregg’s Mistflower.

I heartily recommend you give these perennials a chance. Having butterflies as permanent residents of your (rose) garden adds an extra dimension of beauty and joy that both you and garden visitors will love.

This article first appeared in the newsletter of the Houston Rose Society, The Rose Ette, July, 2014.

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