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Old 08-08-2010, 05:32 PM   #1
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Default best butterfly shrub for michigan

Hi, y'all,

As a transplanted southerner, I'm getting pretty familiar with all the plants for North Carolina/zone 7b. My brother-in-law is visiting from Michigan, and loves all the butterflies I have, and asked what he should plant. He lives in zone 5b, Southern Michigan right by the lake. He isn't much of a gardener, so it needs to be something easy.

Any suggestions? I guess I'm getting a little lazy - I'm sure I could spend a few hours researching it, but I expect I'll here from the folks here amazingly fast with first hand experience on what really grows there. I really appreciate having friendly experts at my fingertips. Thank you!!
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:21 PM   #2
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Has to be a shrub? According to the Lepidopteran Ornamental Guide (Welcome to the Lepidopteran Ornamental Guide!), the top woody genuses that include shrubs for Lepidopteran host plants are Prunus (chokecherry, wild plum), Salix (willow), Malus (crabapple), and Vaccinium (blueberry, cranberry).
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:26 AM   #3
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Thanks for the link. It is a great site.

He was amazed at all the butterflies on my lantana, admittedly a non-native but far and away the favorite plant in my yard for nectaring. It almost always has 4-12 butterflies on it at any given time. If I can get him interested by planting a couple of good nectaring sources, then I can ease him into the concept of larval plants. He was very interested in all of the caterpillars I showed him off my my various plants, but really wants to have butterflies swarming his yard the way they are here this week.
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:34 AM   #4
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In my experience the really great nectar plants are usually forbs rather than shrubs, but that may just be a product of my limited experience. Joe-Pye weed, milkweed, mountainmint, goldenrod, & aster are examples of really good butterfly nectar plants that are native. Bees also love penstemon, columbine, obedient plant, turtlehead, coreopsis, yellow pimpernel, and golden alexander. American holly is also great for bees relatively early in the season. Some of these may also feed certain kinds of moths & butterflies, and some of them are also good for hummingbirds.

Oh, summersweet - Clethra alnifolia - is really good for all kinds of pollinators and is a shrub. It's native along the east coast and inland south (not where I am in Buffalo, NY).
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Old 08-09-2010, 02:28 PM   #5
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If forbs are okay then go for some Meadow Liatris, species name starts with an L. I have Monarchs all over mine now.
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Old 08-09-2010, 02:34 PM   #6
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As your brother-in-law if he is willing to create a butterfly garden and incorporate the species of wildflowers that the others have suggested. He would be creating biodiversity in the garden and attracting many different butterflies and other pollinators.

I think the Liatris species in question is ligustylis.
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:15 PM   #7
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Well remember Mi. has lakes on both sides Erie in the east Michigan in the west. More important is the soil sandy or clay. Better to stick with praire forbs as someone else said, It's best to understand the cat. food/nectar stop plants before planting or planning. Purple Coneflower,N.E Aster, and Lupine do well and Joepye Weed and Milkweed will also work. I recommond box elder, birch, and willow along with oaks and hackberry.
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Old 08-09-2010, 09:19 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the ideas. I have most of these on my lists for what I'm putting in my own garden here in NC, but wasn't sure they'd grow in MI. He is not much of a gardener, so it needs to be really simple. I just bought three Clethras today to plant when it cools down here. Will Clethra actually survive a Michigan winter - St Joseph, a mile from Lake Michigan, so much warmer than where Havalotta lives, but way colder than NC where I am. It says zone 5b on my map of the area. Their soil is pretty sandy, nothing like mine.
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Old 08-10-2010, 12:05 PM   #9
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The asters seem to be the best for attracting the butterflies on my property...More of a late season bloomer.
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Old 08-10-2010, 12:59 PM   #10
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The South-West side of the state [St. Joe] also gets alot of lake effect snow. Like Buffalo gets from lake Erie, The snow helps insulate the soil somewhat preventing frost heaving. So most cat/nectar forbs will have to be plants that like dry feet/roots. This leaves you with Oaks, Birch, and Conifers. However if he can plant Jack Pine he can attract the endangered Kirtland Warbler. I've heard Lupine does well in sandy soils and is a host plant for Blue Karners Butterfly,Also Endangered.

Last edited by sprucetree; 08-10-2010 at 01:00 PM. Reason: spelling
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