es, I talk a lot about pests in this column, ants and bugs and things that bite. But the tropics have so many wonderful things that I thought it was about time I mentioned them. Take butterflies, for example.
Doesn’t every child love butterflies? Even when we are adults, they still amaze with their colors and patterns, and I want them in my garden even though I know that the caterpillars may munch a few desirable plants. I would really love to attract the blue morpho and have seen several near the river. So, how do I get them into the yard?
Butterflies love the shades from red to yellow, throw in pinks and purples, and you have them all. Flowers for butterflies should be clustered or flat-topped with flower tubes that are fairly short. Moths, with their longer probosces, prefer lighter colors and shades of white and can handle long tubular flowers. Since butterflies prefer to feed in the sun, plant sun-loving flowers. And be sure to plant for continuous bloom here in the tropics. When the flowers are gone, so are the butterflies. For flowers, plant jasmine and lantana, coneflower, zinnias, daisies, cardinal flower, and ixora to name just a few.
Then there are the jewels of the sky, the hummingbirds. Fortunately, hummingbirds enjoy many of the same flowers that attract butterflies, although they prefer tubular flowers. As you watch them, you will notice that some have straight beaks and some have beaks with a delicious curve. Either type is needed to reach deeply into the flower for a full meal of nectar. My favorite bush for hummingbirds is the Sanchezia which can reach 5 feet tall by 8 feet wide (about 1.5m x 2.25m) and has variegated foliage and clusters of tubular red-orange flowers. Hummingbirds enjoy the cardinal flowers you planted for the butterflies but they will prefer columbine, lilies, and hibiscus along with varieties of honeysuckle, passion flower, and trumpet vines. Again, plant for continuous flowering.
Attracting bees to the garden seems relatively simple until you remember that they can’t see red and you have planted a lot of reds to attract other fliers. The favorites for bees are yellows and blues with clustered or flat-topped flowers. Zinnias fit the bill nicely and, since they come in many colors, you can attract bees and butterflies with the same plant. Lantana and roses will also attract bees. The largest cluster of bees I have seen in the yard has been on my angel trumpet shrub. They were crawling up into the flowers for nectar and the buzzing was audible at 30 feet.
Want them all in the garden? Just mix and match until you get it right for your tropical zone, and happy planting!