Saving and Swapping Seeds
Sharing seeds of your favorite butterfly garden plants is a way to help butterflies: by sharing your seeds, you help increase the tribe of butterfly and habitat gardeners. Each fall I squirrel away seeds of two types of milkweed, Zinnia, Blue Wild Indigo, Marigolds, and Compass Plant, to name just a few. The plants that thrive in my garden are the ones from which I share seeds. Most of my saved seeds will be given to other gardeners, although some will be propagated during the winter to give away as young plants. Letting other gardeners know what works in your garden is one of the best ways to increase local habitat.
I also participate in a few seed swaps each winter which allows me to try plants suggested by butterfly gardeners around the country. This past summer I planted Cowpen Daisy, obtained in such a seed swap, which is a native annual flowering plant that is popular with butterfly enthusiasts in Texas and other more southerly states. I was not surprised when my seedlings struggled in the early part of the summer––June temperatures in New Jersey can’t compare with Texas heat––but was happy when the plants started growing vigorously in August.
As the season winds down, Cowpen Daisy is still going strong, with many clear, yellow daisy-shaped flowers that seem to be very attractive to bees and flies, not so much to butterflies. Even though I have not seen a single butterfly visit the flowers, I’ll try it again next year because the color is an unusual shade of yellow (and beautiful next to annual Ageratum); pollinators other than butterflies seem to be attracted to it; and, who knows, it may be attractive to butterflies next year since butterfly populations vary widely from year to year.