Monarch Success! & Plant of the Month: Goldenrod

Last month we explained the important relationship between Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) and late summer blooming plants such as Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium/Eupatorium spp.).  Just to reinforce the importance of correct plant pairings we would like to share the results of an area we planted this year for the Monarchs.

Monarch caterpillar on Asclepias incarnataMonarch caterpillar & Echinacea 'White Swan'

For this test we used the two most common types of Milkweed found at garden centers (Asclepias tuberosa & incarnata).  During the month of August over 50 Monarch caterpillars were counted!  Multiple chrysalis were found and many mature butterflies were spotted Monarch butterfly on Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)collecting pollen.  Out of the two varieties of Asclepias used, Swamp Milkweed (Asc. incarnata) was by far the favorite.  In fact we never once saw a monarch caterpillar on the tuberosa species.  For nectar sources we planted many Eutrochium and Eupatorium species as well as other summer and fall blooming perennials.  As is apparent in nature, diversity is the key!  More variation in bloom times, positively correlates to more Monarchs having the necessary energy needed to survive the long trip back to Mexico.

Monarch Chrysalis

It is now early September and I am still finding Monarch caterpillars on the Swamp Milkweed.  As the Joe Pye weed and other mid to late summer perennials wind down, what can be planted to still provide these late bloomers the energy needed to make the trip?  Two perennials immediately come to mind.  Asters and Goldenrod!  For Septembers plant of the month we will focus on Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Solidago is a late summer/fall blooming perennial in the aster family (Asteraceae).  The hundreds of species and cultivars range in size from less than a foot to over 6 feet tall.  They sport small vivid yellow blooms that mass together to create a beautiful show.  All pollinators benefit from golden rod during early fall due to the decline in other flowering plants.  While being so important they are not commonly planted in residential settings.  Two misconceptions that likely have led to this lack of use is that Goldenrod causes Hay Fever (which it doesn’t) and that they are just too weedy to have a place in a maintained garden (which it isn’t).  In cultivation, Solidago spp. are excellent additions to any garden.  Here are a few varieties that you can try:

  • Solidago ‘Little Lemon’ – Dwarf variety that only gets about 1′ tallSolidago-Little-Lemon-004
  • Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ – Beautiful clump forming cultivar that gets 3 to 4′ widesolidagob
  • Solidago speciosa – We’ve started growing this variety in our nursery and it hasn’t dissapointed.  It is also called Showy Goldenrod because of its stunning blooms.  It reaches about 5′ tall and tends to bloom later than other species of Solidago.solidago-speciosa-showy-goldenrod_with-indian-grass_467x705

So give Goldenrod a try this fall and let us know if you like it as much as we do.

Thanks for reading!

Plant by Design LLC
http://www.plantbydesign.com

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