Native Plants Part Four

Achillea millefolium ‘Terracotta’, commonly called yarrow, is a herbaceous perennial that has multicolored daisy like flowers that grow on a flat-topped corym. The flowers range in color from salmon-peach to pale yellow-orange to terra cotta. They will flower all summer if dead-headed. The foliage is a fern-like silvery-green. While we won’t be picking it, this cultivar makes a great cut and dried flower.

Easy to grow, it tolerates very dry conditions once it is established in the garden. It does well in full sun to mostly sunny conditions and average to sandy well drained soil, and is hardy in zones 3-8.  It grows to 2′ with a spread of 2-4′. Terra cotta is deer resistant. Butterflies are attracted to yarrow, especially the Northern Metalmark and the Little Copper, for its nectar.

Clethra alnifola ‘Sixteen Candles” (sweet pepper bush or summersweet) is a cultivar of a native shrub introduced by Dr. Michael Dirr.  More compact, it grows 2-5′ tall with a spread of 2-5’. Its fragrant, erect white blooms flower for 4-6 weeks in the summer. Foliage is dark green in color during the summer, turning  yellow in the fall.  Peppercorn like seed heads add some winter interest.

Hardy in zones 4-9 it will grow in full sun to total shade. It requires a moist, well-drained, acid soil. The summer sweet is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. It can be propagated from seed, rooting summer cuttings and division of suckers.

For a look at a few varieties of Clethra click here.

Image of Coreopsis ‘Creme Brûlée’ by James H. Schutte

Coreopsis verticillata, ‘Creme Brulee’ is commonly know as coreopsis, tickseed, or pot of gold. It has large yellow flowers with bright green, lacy, thread leaf foliage. The flowers fill in along the stems of this plant, giving it a fuller appearance. It is a vigorous grower thriving in well-drained soil with full sun. Generally it grows to 20″ in height and spreads up to 35″.

Once established, tickseed is fairly drought resistant. It also has shown some resistance to powdery mildew. It blooms from June into the fall. Butterflies, bees and birds are attracted to this plant.

Propagation is achieved through dividing the rootball or through seeding. Seeds can be collected from dry seed heads. However, if you do not want volunteers cropping up in the spring, spent flowers need to be removed.

Eupatorium dubium ‘Baby Joe’ is a compact variety of the native joe-pye weed. It has a more restrained growth habit so that it will not flop all over the garden. One of the shortest cultivars it tolerates seasonally wet to dry locations. Fragrant, bright fuscia flowers bloom atop sturdy upright stems.

Eupatorium is a genus of about 40 species, most of them native to the eastern United States. They have long been grown where the garden meets the wild.  Hardy in zones 4-8 ‘Baby Joe’ reaches a height 0f 24-30″, quite small for a joe-pye. It blooms from August through October.  Propagation is through division. Bees and butterflies love this plant.

Eupatorium dubium ‘Little Joe” is another cultivar of joe-pye found growing in the nursery of Chester County’s local Conrad-Pyle Co. This is not as small as ‘Baby Joe’ growing to 3.5 x 4.5 feet high by 2-4 feet wide. Located in higher nutrient, moist areas, the growth may be taller and wider.

Joe-pye is a clumping form herbaceous perennial. This cultivar has stiff upright stems, again a similarity it shares with ‘Baby Joe’. The flowers are a softer mauve in color and they bloom in mid to late summer. The blooms can last three weeks. The foliage is dark to medium green with lanceolate leaves. In the fall the drying seed heads have a light brown fuzzy texture which adds seasonal interest. Birds like to use them in their nests.

They prefer a soil that is well drained to moist. Although they they are drought tolerant once they are established they grow better with evenly moist average soil with some acidity. ‘Little Joe’ is attractive to many butterflies especially swallowtails and the monarch.

Propagation is achieved by sowing seeds in a cold frame or through division in the spring.

 For a cool video of Joe-pye weed and butterflies turn your volume off and click here.


Clemson Extension

 Guide to Selecting Shrubs for PA Landscapes

Maryland Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets

Missouri Botanical Garden


About chestercoextbutterfly

I am an apprentice Master Gardener with the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Cooperative Extension Program. My local office is in Chester County. As part of my volunteer activity I am working with a team to develop a Butterfly Garden on the grounds of the  Church of the Loving Shepherd.  We will be using the creation of this garden as an educational program for some of the participants in the Bournelyf Special Camp which, is held every summer. Members of the congregation of the church will be involved as well as in the ongoing maintenance of the garden.The purpose of this blog is to document the project as it develops.
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