Whether you have started your flowers from seeds or get them from the local greenhouse, now is the time to think about planting time as Spring slogs its way into the warmer planting weather. Many flowers will not survive a late season frost, although spring bulbs can be planted if the soil is workable in late winter. Generally planting of perennials or annuals can begin the last week of April or early May, unless the month has been consistently warm. You can plant flowers into the summer, just remember they may need a bit more attention.
An easy guide for getting hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to visit often
Hummingbirds prefer red, and then pink, orange and purple
Bees prefer purple, white and yellow.
Butterflies prefer pink, purple, red, and yellow.
Here are some of the flowers that will attract this trio to your garden and yard all season long.
- The Red Cardinal Flower is a great addition as planting native flowers increases the likelihood of attracting hummingbirds that are local visitors. This is one of the most attractive native wildflowers in New Jersey. Its showy, scarlet flowers are a hummingbird magnet, blooming July through September and offering a late summer nectar source. The flower requires moist-wet, humus-rich soil to ensure optimum growth. This is a perennial which grows to about 6 feet.
- Bee Balm is a smaller, perennial flower growing to about 3 feet. Hummingbirds, along with bees and butterflies, love visiting these plants to get nectar. Bee balm begins blooming in early summer and continues through late summer and early fall. When the flowers begin to fade, snip off the blossoms before they form seed heads. This will encourage the plants to produce more flowers.
- Sage comes in all different sizes and colors. Some are annual, some perennial. One of the most common, Salvia officinalis (Common Sage) originates from the Mediterranean but is so common it is considered naturalized in North America. Most Sage have spikes of flowers that are tubular. This is particularly attractive to hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and moths. This common sage is easy to grow if it is planted in sunny, well-drained soil.
- Sunflowers come both as annuals and perennials, this is the flower known for turning its face to follow the sun. Perennials such as the gold, double-flowered Lodden Gold or Multiflorus sunflowers are drought-tolerant plants suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 through 10.
- While most varieties of this bright beauty are annual sunflowers, meaning they will not come back the following growing season, they may self-germinate from dropped seeds. Autumn Beauty sunflower grows to a height of five feet with red orange coloring while Music Box dwarf sunflower has red and yellow flowers and grows to about 3 feet.
- The nectar in all milkweed flowers provides valuable food for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Butterflies not only need nectar, but also need food at the caterpillar stage. The leaves of milkweed plants are the ONLY food that Monarch caterpillars can eat. Swamp milkweed grows 3-5′ tall and is a native perennial however the plant must be replaced with seedlings about every 6 years since older plants will die off. Common milkweed is a wildlife-friendly perennial. The large, thick leaves are light green with red veins. Rounded clusters of fragrant, pinkish-purple flowers bloom June-August. Large, bumpy seed pods split open when ripe to release silky, wind-dispersed seeds. Common milkweed is an important nectar source and larval (caterpillar) host plant for Monarch butterflies. The leaves and stems have a milky sap, which contains cardiac glycosides. When ingested by Monarch butterfly larvae feeding on the leaves, the cardiac glycosides make them (and the adult butterflies) toxic to birds and other predators. Common Milkweed grows well in poor, dry soils. This plant is best used in wildlife gardens.
As you can see there will be a multitude of flower combinations available to you. Flowers that often appeal to bees may not appeal to hummingbirds and perhaps the butterflies will like everything.
Remember as well that one reason the monarch butterfly is struggling to survive is the wide spread use of chemical pesticides, using natural pesticides on your garden will give monarch butterflies a safe haven. Plants native to NJ are beneficial as invasive plants tend to crowd out native plants and butterflies, bees and hummingbirds prefer nectar they are used to which native plants provide. Precision Tree and Landscaping can assist you with the right flowers for your summer garden.