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Rudbeckias (black-eyed Susans) are members of the large and diverse Asteracea family. They are native only to North America and require only minimal care.
There are about 25 species, and they can be perennials, biennials or annuals. Most spread by rhizomes (underground stolons) eventually creating clumps that should be divided in spring or fall every four or five years. Biennials will go to seed and self sow. Most rudbeckias prefer full sun in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. They are pretty much insect and disease free.
Flashy but short-lived cultivars of rudbeckia are often sold as “Gloriosia daisies.” They are available in unusual colors such as dark orange and burgundy. Grow them as annuals as they will not return true to color from seed.
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a perennial flower that likes it hot and dry. Planting time can be spring or fall. They grow to a height of 3 to 4 feet (dwarf to 24 inches) and they can take full sun or light shade. Coneflowers prefer well drained, fertile soil. They bloom midsummer to fall. They can be used in beds, borders, wildflower meadows and they are drought resistant and beautiful.
Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa (Asclepiadaceae family) plants are often found along roadsides and naturalized areas throughout eastern North America. It is an herbaceous perennial that grows18 to 30 inches tall by 18 to 24 inches wide.
Butterfly weed is a type of milkweed (a group of plants with milky sap that is poisonous to most insects). It is non-invasive and often slow to emerge in spring.
Butterfly weed prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It will perform well in dry conditions; however, it does not compete with surface-rooted trees. Aphids can be a problem on the stems and buds, but can be controlled by hand wiping the plants with soap or oil.
Butterfly Weed is a great choice for meadow plantings and other naturalized plantings. They produce very showy orange quarter-inch flowers in late spring through summer. Flowers are in flat clusters (umbels) of 20 or more individual flowers and can range in color from pale yellow to bright red.
Gayfeather, Liatris spicata is an interesting perennial that produces a 1 to 3 feet tall spike of bright purplish-pink or white flowers in late June to early fall. It is an ideal plant to grow in your butterfly garden.
The Gayfeather performs best when it is grown in full sun, but will tolerate a bit of light shade. Liatris does not like soggy soil during the winter months, so good drainage is extremely important. Once established, it is fairly drought tolerant.
The Liatris will tend to develop mildew if it has insufficient sunlight and air circulation, so be sure to give it plenty of room.
Gayfeather may be started from seeds sown indoors at 65 to75 degrees or directly into the garden in early spring,
(Rose Mallow) Hibiscus Luna Red is a wonderfully compact, bushy plant with gigantic 8-inch bright burgundy-red flowers. The shorter stature of Hibiscus Luna Red makes it an excellent choice for smaller gardens or large patio containers and this plant is deer resistant.
One of the greatest treasures for providing life in the garden is the Butterfly Bush. Hummingbirds and beneficial insects, as well as butterflies, are seduced by the nectar rich flowers of these bushes. Stunning colors paint lengthy bottle brush like flowers in dazzling hues that complement most every garden color theme. While Buddleias do require some summer watering, it is not an excessive amount. Once established, as infrequently as once a month can be sufficient.
A great advantage is the scorching sun does not adversely affect their growth nor does it burn their leaves. More importantly, the broiling sun does not fade the colors of the flowers and, after all, the flowers are the main attraction. Millions of tiny flowers are formed along a bottle brush-like spike.
Add some or all of these plants to your sunny areas and you will not have to water constantly; just relax in your hammock and enjoy watching the butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy your beautiful garden.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.
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