Monthly Archives: July 2024

The Benefits of Beneficials

In the age-old battle between gardeners and garden pests, a secret army of tiny warriors quietly goes about their work, often unnoticed yet profoundly effective. These unsung heroes are beneficial insects, nature’s allies in the fight against garden and greenhouse pests. From the mysterious Assassin Bugs to the charming Ladybugs, each plays a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of the garden ecosystem.

What is a Beneficial Insect

At its core, a beneficial insect is one that provides valuable services to humans and the environment. Here are some key ways in which an insect may be considered beneficial:

Natural Insect Pest Control
Perhaps the most well-known role of beneficial insects is as natural predators of garden pests, keeping their populations in check and protecting garden plants from damage while reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Plant Pollination
Beyond pest control, many beneficial insects play a crucial role in pollination. Bees, butterflies, moths, and even some beetles and flies are among the pollinators that transfer pollen from one flower to another, facilitating fertilization and seed production.

Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling
Some beneficial insects, such as beetles and ants, contribute to the decomposition of organic matter, breaking down dead plants and animal waste into nutrients that enrich the soil. This process, known as nutrient cycling, is essential for maintaining soil fertility and supporting plant growth.

Top 5 General-Purpose Beneficial Insects

Within a long list of beneficial insects, many of which play a very specific role in pest control, there exists a group of five general-purpose beneficial insects that can control a wide variety of common greenhouse and garden pests.

  1. Assassin BugsCommon Garden Pests Controlled: Assassin bugs are voracious predators that target a wide range of garden pests, including aphids, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, mealybugs, thrips, and more.

    Control Stage: Assassin bugs prey on their victims throughout their life, from nymphs to adults.

  2. Green LacewingsCommon Garden Pests Controlled: Green lacewings are especially effective against aphids, leafhoppers, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, and more.

    Control Stage: Lacewing larvae are particularly voracious and feed on pests during their larval stage. Adult lacewings primarily feed on nectar and pollen but also consume some pests.

  3. Minute Pirate BugsCommon Garden Pests Controlled: Minute pirate bugs are small but mighty predators that prey on aphids, caterpillar eggs, leafhoppers, mealybugs, spider mites, and thrips, amongst other garden pests.

    Control Stage: Minute pirate bugs are active predators in both nymph and adult stages, consuming pests as they encounter them.

  4. Praying MantidsCommon Garden Pests Controlled: Praying mantids are generalist predators that, when young, consume aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, and other soft-bodied insects. When mature, they will consume larger insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets.

    Control Stage: They primarily hunt during their nymph and adult stages, using their agile front legs to catch prey.

  5. Ladybugs Common Garden Pests Controlled: Ladybugs are famous for their appetite for aphids, but they also consume other soft-bodied insects like mealybugs, mites, and scale insects.

    Control Stage: Both the larval and adult ladybugs are predatory. The larvae are particularly voracious and consume large numbers of pests during their development.

The benefits of these five beneficial insects extend beyond mere pest control. By fostering populations of these tiny guardians, gardeners can reduce their reliance on chemical pesticides, creating a safer, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly garden ecosystem.

Beneficial Insect Tips

  • It’s essential to provide diverse habitats for these beneficial insects, including flowering plants for nectar and pollen, as well as sheltered areas for nesting and overwintering.
  • Avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides as they can harm beneficial insect populations along with pest species.
  • Introducing beneficial insects into the garden can be an effective and sustainable method of pest control, but it may take some time for populations to establish themselves.
  • Regular monitoring of both pest and beneficial insect populations is crucial for maintaining a healthy balance in the garden ecosystem.

It’s important to remember that while this article highlights the remarkable contributions of Assassin Bugs, Green Lacewings, Minute Pirate Bugs, Praying Mantids, and Ladybugs, many other predatory insects play a crucial role in natural pest insect control. Creatures like Hoverflies, Ground Beetles, and Predatory Wasps are just a few examples of nature’s diverse arsenal against garden and greenhouse pests.

The N-P-K of Fertilizer

Once upon a time, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary grew her garden with silver bells and cockleshells, but nowadays, most gardeners use some other forms of fertilizer that are better formulated than nursery rhymes. But what important components make up a fertilizer, and why are those components important for your plants?

Understanding Fertilizer

Simply put, a fertilizer has nutrients to make a plant grow better. Years ago, farmers used composted manure, ashes and urine. Today, most of us buy our fertilizer, but a trip to the store can be confusing. What do those numbers on the fertilizer bag mean? Should I buy liquid or granular? Which is better, slow or quick release? Let’s investigate…

Without getting too technical, the three numbers show the percentage of available nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K) in a fertilizer blend. By law, it always goes in that order. If you see a fertilizer with 20-5-10, it means the fertilizer contains 20 percent available nitrogen, 5 percent phosphate and 10 percent potassium. Other nutrients and filler make up the difference and are often chosen for specific types of plants, such as roses or flowers, vegetables, trees, etc.

What does that mean to your plants?

  • Nitrogen promotes chlorophyll, producing greener, more quickly growing plants. If your plants aren’t as green as they should be, use a fertilizer with nitrogen. Most lawn fertilizers have a relatively high nitrogen content and cause mowing to be more frequent as lawns “green up” and grass blades grow more quickly.
  • Phosphate improves root growth, flowering ability and bloom size. Use a fertilizer with a larger middle number (phosphate percentage) to encourage root growth during transplanting or to encourage blooms. This is especially important when initially planting so root systems become strongly established.
  • Potassium enables the photosynthesis process and improves plant resistance to cold spells, drought and insect attacks. Many people use a potassium fertilizer when the seasons change to help plants resist the stresses of those transitions.

Liquid or Granular? Fast or Slow?

Fertilizers come in liquid and granular forms. Generally speaking, liquids are highly concentrated and need to be mixed with water before being fed to plants, but they are absorbed more quickly and are easy to apply more evenly. Granular formulas have small beads or grains that must be spread around and watered into the soil, and it can be difficult to spread an even layer over large areas unless a spreader is used. Granular forms need time to dissolve or decompose before they can be absorbed, but they last longer in the soil and can nourish plants for weeks or months.

Similarly, fertilizers come in fast or quick release forms as well as slow release forms. Both can work well in any garden, depending on your fertilizing needs, plant nutritional requirements and condition of your soil.

Read the label carefully for specific instructions and uses. It may seem boring, but reading that label will prevent bad results, as overuse or misuse of fertilizer can kill your plants, upset the balance of your soil and even cause environmental contamination – not the results you planned. Once you know more about fertilizer and how to use it correctly, however, you’ll enjoy the results this extra treat can give to your garden.

The Cotinus Craze

Smoketree, the common name for the genus Cotinus, aptly describes the hazy, smoky look of the flowers sported by this fabulous plant. Best described as a deciduous large shrub or small tree, Cotinus boasts species with varying heights, unique summer flowers, outstanding fall color and low maintenance requirements, all features that can make it an excellent addition to your landscape.

Cotinus Care

Thriving in full sun, the smoketree isn’t particular about soil conditions; it is drought tolerant and virtually disease and pest-free. Cotinus does, however, require excellent drainage, and it is important that the soil not be soggy or compacted which will choke off roots. Although this plant may be pruned for size it is important to remember that the flowers appear in the late spring on old wood, therefore, fall or early spring pruning will eliminate the smoky flowers. When pruning is required to maintain size or shape, consider coppicing (cutting entire bush down to 12″ tall in early spring) every other year. This allows you to enjoy the flowers on alternate years but keep the plant to a manageable size.

Cotinus Varieties

We recommend two species and various varieties of Cotinus because of their sizes, colors and landscape beauty. The large C. obovatus, American Smoketree, is native to the eastern United States. A large specimen grows to 20′ tall and wide, with large bluish dark green leaves. In the fall, the leaves turn bright yellow, orange and bronzed red.

The smaller C. coggygria generally grows to 15-20′. The flower puffs of the purple-leaved cultivars ‘Purpureaus’, ‘Royal Purple’, ‘Norcutt’s Variety’ and ‘Velvet Cloak’ appear even stronger purple than the dramatic leaves. Especially when positioned against a light colored fence or wall, the purples seem to glow.

On the other hand, ‘Golden Spirit’, growing to only 7′ tall with lime green spring leaves, stands out against dark walls and fences, whether in the ground or in a container. ‘Pink Champagne’ pairs tannish-pink flower puffs with green leaves for a 10′ tall and wide, clean, contemporary look.

One of our favorites, ‘Grace’, is a hybrid of the two species. Growing to 15′ tall and wide, the purple leaves create a beautiful backdrop to large, deep pink smoke puffs. Autumn foliage colors include orange and a stunning red/purple/bronze.

Choosing Your Cotinus

With so many varieties of this stunning plant available, it can be difficult to choose your best Cotinus. Check the specific growing conditions for each variety, as well as its mature size, when selecting one for your landscape. Care for it meticulously until established, and you’ll be rewarded with many years of dramatic beauty to enjoy.

Growing and Storing Herbs

Growing herbs, whether inside or out, may be one of gardening’s most gratifying experiences. Because of their beauty and versatility, herbs may be grown amid vegetables, ornamentals or in a garden dedicated strictly to their kind. They may be nurtured in a sunny window box, strawberry pot, whiskey barrel or just about any container you choose. Situate your herbs for easy access: on the patio, deck, a sunny windowsill or in the kitchen garden. Herbs are relatively carefree and have a multitude of uses that include but are not limited to: culinary, aromatic, ornamental, medicinal and insect control.

Herb Growing Tips

Choose a full sun location, 4-6 hours per day is best. Herbs will grow in a shadier location, but plants will be weak and thin. Most herbs are not demanding of soil fertility. One thing that they will not tolerate, however, is wet or poorly drained soil, so be sure not to overwater your herbs.

Locate herbs in or near the kitchen for easy access when cooking. Be aware of the ultimate size, height and spread of the herbs that you plan to grow. If you take this into consideration you can assure room for the plants to reach their full potential. Position taller herbs to the back of the garden or container and shorter herbs to the front; this will allow for easier access and prevent shading.

Water pots before planting. Remove plants from their pots and loosen roots to stimulate new root growth. Place plants at the same soil depth that they were in the pot, or slightly higher to avoid rotting. Gently firm soil around each plant, water carefully and mulch if desired. Feed monthly with a mild, organic fertilizer such as Neptune’s Harvest Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 3-2-1.

Some herbs, such as mints, have a tendency to be invasive and may take over an entire herb garden or even spread into the lawn or other parts of the landscaping. Sink aggressive potted herbs directly into the garden to minimize this overgrowth. Pull up pots each spring to replenish their soil, then sink the containers back into the garden for another season.

Growing herbs indoors is also quite simple. Choose herbs that will not get too large to handle inside. The same soil requirements apply for both indoor and outdoor planting. Select a south or west window to situate your plants so they receive adequate sunlight. It may be beneficial or necessary to supplement with artificial lighting during the winter months. Provide humidity by grouping plants together and misting daily. Another option is placing potted herbs on a humidity tray. Fertilize monthly with Neptune’s Harvest to provide the best nutrition.

Harvesting

Fresh herb leaves are ready to be harvested as soon as there is enough foliage to maintain the plant. Try to harvest in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the sun becomes too hot, using a sharp knife or scissors to make each cut. It is a good idea to harvest only what you plan to use at time of cutting, as herbs do not store well in the refrigerator. With most herbs it is beneficial to harvest before the plants go to flower, as the taste is better at this stage of growth. Rinse with cold water and pat dry before using.

Drying

If you have excess herbs, you may want to dry them for future use. After gently rinsing the harvested herbs, drain them on absorbent towels, tie in bunches and dry thoroughly by hanging bunches up in the sun just until all water evaporates from the surface of the herbs. Remove plants from sun and hang in a clean, dark, dry location with good air circulation for 1-2 weeks until herbs are completely dry and brittle. If not dried completely the herbs will become moldy in storage. Remove leaves from the stem and store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry, low light environment. Check container in a few days for condensation. If there is any moisture in the container you must start the drying process again, after checking carefully for any mold or mildew.

You can also dry herbs in a conventional or microwave oven. With a conventional oven, position clean herbs in a single layer on a shallow pan. Place baking pan in a 180°F oven for 2 to 4 hours. When using a microwave, place clean herbs in a single layer on a paper towel or plate. Cook herbs on high for 1 to 3 minutes, rotating the plate every 30 seconds or moving the leaves around on the plate until thoroughly dry. Store these herbs just as you would air-dried herbs.

Freezing

Freezing herbs is also easy to accomplish. Wash herbs and blanch them in boiling water for one minute. Cool herbs very quickly in ice water then drain. Package herbs in airtight plastic bags and store in the freezer.

Herbs can be delightfully easy to grow and they are an even more delightful addition to salads, sauces, pastas, teas and many other treats you can enjoy year-round.

Summer Watering Tips

As the days heat up, watering can become a dreaded garden chore and too many gardeners use wasteful techniques that use plenty of water but don’t give their plants the moisture they really need. Make watering plants easier and more efficient with the proper practices and tools…

  • Mulches not only make plantings look more attractive, but their most important functions are to help retain soil moisture and minimize weeds, which would also usurp moisture from your plants. Mulch around plants to a depth of 2-3 inches, refreshing mulch as needed to maintain that depth and attractiveness.
  • Watering cans and small containers work great for spot watering plants with different watering needs by hand. You don’t always need to get out a hose or sprinkler to get the watering done.
  • Check to make sure that you have the proper length hose(s) to reach every corner of your garden. Take into account any obstacles in the way, and be sure you aren’t dragging the hose over any delicate plantings to reach more distant dry spots.
  • Add a water wand to the hose to get the water where it’s most needed – the base of the plants – without needing to bend over repeatedly, which can cause back strain.
  • The best time to water is during the early morning hours of a sunny day. This will allow plants to absorb more water before it evaporates when temperatures rise, but won’t leave water to sit on plants overnight when mold can develop.
  • Always water plants and container gardens thoroughly and deeply to encourage deeper, more drought-tolerant root systems. It is better to water less frequently but more deeply rather than more often but with less water.
  • In the landscape, a good rule of thumb is to provide an inch of water per week minimum. Keep track of precipitation with a rain gauge to avoid wasting water by overwatering when Mother Nature does the job.
  • New individual plants that are set out, direct sown seed beds, sodding, etc. often require daily care, including watering, until established. Check moisture levels carefully during this period so the plants are well cared for.
  • Use soaker hoses to provide slow drip watering. This allows plants to absorb water easily without wasting water by evaporating from foliage or spraying into the air. Soaker hoses can even be layered beneath mulch to preserve as much moisture as possible.
  • Pay extra attention to plants in containers and hanging baskets as they tend to dry out faster and with greater frequency. These plantings will likely need to be watered daily or even multiple times a day during heat waves.
  • Place Tree Gators, a drip irrigation bag, on newly planted trees for slow, steady watering that will soak down to the root system without draining away along the surface of the soil.

If you’ll be away on an extended vacation, or even just for a few days, make arrangements with a trusted friend or neighbor to “plant sit” while you are gone. There’s nothing worse than worrying about your garden while you’re away – except coming home to crisp plants that haven’t been watered properly!

Eliminate Water Garden Algae

During the summer months you can eliminate algae easily, effectively, naturally and attractively with the simple addition of appropriate pond plants to your water garden. Three factors contribute to excess algae growth: sunlight, nutrients and low oxygen. While it may be impossible to eliminate every speck of algae – it is still part of your aquatic ecosystem, after all – when you work to control those factors, you also control and minimize algae without adversely affecting your water garden.

Limit Sunlight

Algae needs abundant sunlight to reproduce, and sunlight also raises the water temperature which helps algae grow even more quickly. In shady, cooler ponds and water gardens, however, much less algae is able to grow. You can easily reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the water surface in your garden by 40-60 percent by adding floaters that will cover the surface and provide shade. Top water garden floaters include water hyacinths and water lettuce, both of which successfully reduce excessive algae growth. For the best results, cover 50 percent or more of the water’s surface area with floating plants.

Reduce Nutrients

Because algae can grow so rapidly, it requires abundant nutrients to reproduce. If you remove those nutrients, there will be less nourishment available to sustain algae growth. Submerged plants, such as water lilies and lotus, compete with algae for limited available nutrients, essentially starving the algae to death, while at the same time adding their own beauty to your backyard pond or water garden. If fish are part of your container garden or pond, be sure you are not overfeeding them, since excess, uneaten food quickly decays into vital nutrients algae can use as well. Similarly, prune and clean out any decaying plant foliage so it does not become the nutrients algae needs.

Increase Oxygen

Algae thrives in stagnant water, and abundant oxygen is toxic to these simple growths. Oxygenating plants like anacharis, coontail and hornwort should be included in your plant choices to increase the oxygen in your water garden and make it less suitable for algae. More oxygen will also be healthier for any fish, frogs or toads that might call your water garden home, and many other water garden plants will also thrive with better oxygen in the water.

Stop in and see our collection of water garden plants and supplies. Our staff can assist you in making some choices for your water garden to help reduce algae growth and keep your water garden or pond clear and sparkling.

Versatile Hydrangeas

Tall or short, red, pink, purple, blue, white and shades in between, few shrubs provide the versatility of hydrangeas. Generations of gardeners have loved and designed their gardens using these showy shrubs as summer privacy screens, landscape focal points and beautiful cut flowers. Now, thanks to new hydrangea introductions, there are even more ways to use them.

Discover the Newest Hydrangeas

New types of hydrangeas are being introduced every year, and these showstoppers are fast favorites among both experienced hydrangea aficionados as well as newcomers to the hydrangea craze.

  • ‘Endless Summer’
    Termed “the best new flowering shrub of the decade” by some gardeners, this cultivar has gained a reputation as the first “reblooming” hydrangea. Blooming from early summer to first frost on both new and old wood, it is unfazed by high heat or extreme cold. Now gardeners in colder microclimates can grow beautiful low maintenance 3-5’ tall and wide hydrangeas. The 8″ diameter mophead balls of light blue or pink flowers bloom the entire summer.
  • ‘Bloomstruck’
    A dwarf ‘Endless Summer’ this hydrangea grows to only 2-4’ tall and wide with pink or blue 4-5″ diameter mopheads on upright red-purple stems. Perfect for containers, in smaller gardens or in the front of cutting beds, it also graces balconies and decks. In fall, red-purple colored leaves extend the beauty.

Color Tip: Change the flower colors of ‘Endless Summer’ and ‘Bloomstruck.’ The soil pH affects the flower color of many hydrangeas. To intensify the pink color, decrease the acidity by adding hydrated lime. To intensify the blue color, increase the acidity by adding sulfur. Our staff can suggest products to help you determine your soil pH and the amount of lime or sulfur to use.

  • ‘Quickfire’
    Also known as Hydrangea paniculata, this variety blooms earlier than most other hydrangeas and has flowers along an elongated stalk. The flowers, blooming on new wood, open as white, gradually turning to pink in the summer and darker rose in the fall. The soil pH does not affect the flower color. As one of the hardiest hydrangeas, this beauty grows to 6′ tall in most soils, full sun or dappled shade and tolerates drought conditions.
  • ‘Little Quickfire’
    A dwarf form of ‘Quickfire,’ this tiny powerhouse has all the beauty and benefits of its bigger relative but in a small package. Growing only to 3-4′ tall with a slightly larger spread, this hydrangea makes a big statement in a little space when covered with blooms and can be an ideal choice to start out with hydrangeas.
  • ‘Bobo’
    Another paniculata hydrangea, this variety creates huge drama for such a little plant. Growing only to 3′ tall and wide, it’s a thriller in containers, and easily won the Gold Florall medal for best novelty plant. ‘Bobo’s early season white flowers also bloom on new wood and cover the plant on strong overhead stems. Unaffected by soil type or pH, this hardy hydrangea steals the show wherever it is planted.

No matter how you use these newcomers in your landscape – larger varieties in the back of beds or as borders, smaller options in the front or in containers – their long-lasting flowers will make you think summer truly is endless.

A Taste of the Tropics

It only takes a few plants to cast a tropical look upon a garden. Although our gardening zone here isn’t strictly tropical, it’s still possible to include some tropical and tropical-looking plants in our landscapes to create a lush summer oasis that hints at a vibrant paradise.

Use Houseplants for Tropical Flair

A simple way to add a tropical touch to your garden is to place houseplants among your outside ornamentals. As many of our houseplants originated in tropical, semi-tropical or desert zones, they’re right at home in the summer garden. Consider the effect of adding spathiphyllums, orchids, ficus or cacti to your garden or patio. A brugmansia (sometimes called datura), with giant drooping, fragrant flowers epitomizes the idea of “tropical.” Potted citrus trees produce fruit and fragrance. A “tree” of tillandsias (air plants) creates an amazing sculpture. A single large stag-horn fern hanging from the side of a sturdy shade tree is another eye-catcher. When summer ends, simply shower the plants, look for insects and treat if necessary, and reinstall them in the house to provide winter enjoyment.

Summer Tropical Bulbs

Many beautiful bulbs can add a tropical vibe to your garden with very little care or maintenance. Here are a few of our favorite summer bulb additions to the tropical garden, but remember that these plants are not winter hardy here and the bulbs must be dug up and stored inside for the winter.

  • Caladiums: Available in a variety of colors including pink, white, gray, green, red, white, mottled and variegated. These plants flourish in shade with rich soil and regular watering.
  • Callas: This slender plant with large green leaves grows 2-4′ tall. White spath-shaped flowers in spring and early summer rise above the leaves. Grows best in wet soils and light shade.
  • Cannas: Large leaves of green, red or variegated with spectacular flowers of red, orange, yellow, pink or cream in summer and early fall. Tall varieties grow to 6′ and dwarf varieties grow to 3′. Plant in full sun.

In addition to bulbs, other bold and exciting additions with tropical flair include:

  • Chilean Jasmine (Mandevilla laxa): A deciduous vine growing 15′ or higher, this provides an overhead tropical look when grown on a pergola or overhead structure. Very fragrant white flowers in summer add to the tropical effect. Requires rich soil.
  • Gunnera: Huge, dark green, stiff-haired leaves growing to 8′ tall. These “dinosaur food plants” make an amazing statement in the landscape. Requires good soil and ample water. Produces large red cone-shaped flowers.
  • Hibiscus: Tropical Hibiscus may be set outside for the summer in our area and brought back in when the cold weather sets in. There are, however, two varieties of hibiscus that are hardy in our area:
    • Rose-Mallow or Perennial Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos): An American native, grows as a perennial with many varieties of different sizes and colors. Flowers may grow to 12″ diameter in red, pink or white. Regular fertilizing increases bloom vigor and colors.
    • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus): Deciduous shrub growing to 12′ tall but easily trained or kept smaller. Flowers, 2.5-3″, in mid- or late summer.
  • Palms: Nothing says tropical like a palm. Here are four that are readily available and can be used in your garden for a lush accent.
    • Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix): Fan palm with short or no trunk, to 6′ tall. Extremely winter hardy.
    • Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor): Native to the southeastern United States. Grows 4-6′ tall by 8′ wide. Green or blue-green fan-shaped fronds.
    • Mazari Palm (Nannorrhops ritchiana): Shrubby clumping growth to 6′ tall, bluish-green colored fan fronds.
    • Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunea): Grows to 30′ tall and 10′ wide.

Stop by to see the selections for our growing zone or ask questions about creating a tropical garden, come in and talk with our friendly staff. They can help you make the best selection to put the tropical in your garden paradise.

Butterfly Bush

What could be more enjoyable than relaxing in your favorite lawn chair or hammock, your sunglasses on and a cool beverage in hand, staring at an enchanting array of colorful butterflies milling around their favorite plant? What could possibly be an easier way to accomplish this vision than by planting a simple butterfly bush?

About Butterfly Bush

Buddleia davidii, the butterfly bush, is a flowering maniac. It pushes its proliferation of perfumed blooms straight through summer and well into fall, providing nourishment to butterflies all season long. Available in a multitude of colors ranging from white to pink to red to purple, there are colorful butterfly bushes to match any garden or landscape color scheme. The fragrant, long, spiked panicles are borne in profusion on long, gracefully arching branches that add drama and elegance to the yard. And it really is a butterfly magnet!

Growing Butterfly Bush

This quick growing, deciduous, woody shrub is winter hardy in zones 5-10. In the northernmost areas of its hardiness range, Buddleia behaves like a herbaceous perennial, dying back to the ground in very cold winters. In the southernmost areas, Buddleia is grown as large shrub and can flourish all year. In either location, however, you should treat this plant as a cut back shrub. Because butterfly bush blooms on new wood, it benefits the plant to be cut back to the ground each spring. This judicious pruning will stimulate lavish new growth and an abundance of flowers. It will also keep some of the larger varieties at a manageable size, particularly in smaller yards, corners or other confined spaces.

Plant your butterfly bush in full sun in just about any type of soil and it will thrive. Don’t worry about fertilizing as over-fertilization can encourage too much leaf growth over flower formation. Deadheading will encourage additional growth and new flower buds to extend the blooming season. Buddleia has a good tolerance for drought once established, but should be carefully watered when young. A good, thick layer of mulch will help maintain soil moisture and keep weeds down to keep the shrub healthy. Just be sure not to use insecticides or pesticides on your butterfly bush or you may be harming the very fluttering fliers you hope to attract.

Shade Gardening With Perennials

Many gardeners with shady, low-light landscapes mistakenly believe they can’t enjoy beautiful gardens and flowerbeds because of the lack of sunlight. In reality, however, many stunning perennials thrive in shady spots and can bring elegance, color and beauty to what was formerly a drab corner of the yard. Some include stunning foliage, even variegated options or unusual shapes, while others have subtle yet beautiful blooms as well. Some even have dramatic stems and arching branches that can be lovely all year long.

Try some of these shade-loving perennials to brighten up your darker spots, whether they are beneath mature trees, tucked into hidden corners or just in less sunlit areas.

Perennials for Dry Shade…

  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’)*
  • Bishop’s Hat (Epimedium perralchicum, pinnatum, pubigerum)*
  • Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum, endressii, nodosum)*
  • Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)*
  • Deadnettle (Lamium maculaturm)*
  • Soloman’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)*

Perennials for Cool, Moist Soils in Shade…

  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)**
  • Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’)**
  • Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium)**
  • Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)**
  • Marginal Shield Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)**
  • Epimedium grandiflorum, warleyense*
  • Lenten Rose (Helleborus viridus, orientalis)*
  • Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica)**
  • Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)**
  • Soft-Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’)**
  • Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)*
  • Toad Lily (Tricyrtis formosana)*
  • Toadshade (Trillium sessile, grandiflorum)**
  • Globeflower (Trollius europaeus)*

Perennials Groundcovers in Shade…

  • Bear’s Breech (Acanthus mollis)*
  • Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’)*
  • European Wild Ginger (Asarum europaeum)*
  • Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)*
  • Variegated Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon ‘Florentinum’)*
  • Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’)*
  • Variegated Wood Rush (Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’)*
  • Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)*
  • Dwarf Periwinkle (Vinca minor)*
  • Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia ternata)*

Climbers for Shady Walls & Fences…

  • Akebia (Akebia quinata, trifoliata)
  • Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
  • Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloradus’)
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus)
  • Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenosis henryana, quinquefolia, tricuspidata)

*light shade
**medium to dense shade

When choosing your shade-loving perennials, be sure to take into consideration the size of the space you’re hoping to fill, the soil quality, moisture levels and whatever sunlight the area does receive. Plant them gently and care for them thoughtfully until the plants are well established and they will thrive. Carefully selected shade perennials can do well if they are well-matched to their location, and you’ll love the beauty and ease they add to your yard.