Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall Plantings for Pollinators

A newly tagged monarch on Mexican sunflower
Creating a beautiful and functioning pollinator garden means having blooms from the earliest bluestars in late April all the way to the last flowering sedum that survives the first frosts. Good nectar sources are especially important during September and October for the millions of fall migrating monarchs that have to travel up to 2,500 miles to their winter grounds in the mountains of central Mexico. 

Monarch nectaring on butterflyweed

This generation of monarchs won't reproduce until next spring, so they don't necessarily need milkweeds for their offspring. Although, butterflyweed (my favorite milkweed -to the right) is still blooming in my garden and feeds many pollinators from monarchs to fritillaries to honeybees. 

My monarch waysation on September 14th.

I've tagged and let go more than a dozen monarchs amongst my flowers in the last few weeks. The tag numbers can be reported to Monarch Watch if they're recovered anywhere along the butterfly's migration. 

The newly released monarchs still have more than a dozen kinds of flowers to nectar on from the perennial black eyed susans, joe pye weed, sedum, garden phlox, ox-eye sunflowers and echinacea to the stunning annual mexican sunflower and red lantanas.  The best part about all these plants is once they're established they're drought tolerant. I haven't watered my monarch waystation all summer!

White chocolate snakeroot about to flower in mid-September
While some of my perennials are starting to fade, the white chocolate snakeroot is about to explode in a riot of delicate white flowers. Until that moment, this beautiful plant adds a stunning dark green and purple foliage to the garden. And then its tiny white flowers last until November, past when most other plants have gone to seed and the goldfinches descend for the feast. 

Garden phlox
Even if you just add a $1.98 pot of mums to a window box that little nectar source will go a long way to a bee, butterfly or hummingbird that wakes up on a 40 degree morning. A walk through any nursery will show you what's still blooming and many of those nurseries also have great end-of-year sales. I picked up this garden phlox (left) last year half off and it's going strong right now! So add some blooms to your fall garden. Your neighborhood pollinators will thank you. 

Black eyed susans amongst white snakeroot starting to flower

Tagged monarchs on black eyed susans

Eastern tiger swallowtail on joe pye weed


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