Wintersowing to Attract Wildlife

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

One of the reasons I wintersow is to grow a variety of things that attract bees, birds & butterflies to my garden, such as:

Butterfly Weed
Jacob's Ladder
Morning Glories

What are you planning to wintersow that will attract wildlife to your garden?

Here is an interesting website that will give you some ideas.

This message was edited Jan 11, 2007 12:36 PM

York, PA

Great website! I was happy to see many of my WS seeds on the list. My 6 year old will be helping to create a butterfly garden next spring and this site will be a big help.


Sterling, VA(Zone 6b)

I moved last year, so I will be looking to restock on butterfly host and nectar plants. At one point I download a great booklet about butterflies for the Mid-Atlantic region.

In my garden, Verbena bonariensis is the plant most likely to be swarmed with butterflies and moths. It is such a great plant and easy to winter sow! My previous neighborhood had a number of Liriodendron tulipifera trees which are hosts to swallow tail butterflies. I got some Butterfly Weed seeds from the recent swap and those are on my "must sow" list.

If you really want bees then anise hyssop seems to be the plant. A number of times I have been walking around a nursery and seen anise hyssops covered with bees when none of the other plants had more than an occasional visitor. At a local botanical garden, the lavender plants were so alive with bees it kind of made me a bit nervous.

- Brent

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Shirley1md, I'm planting everything on your list except the Morning Glories and I'm not sure what Jacob's ladder is...
I got some Bronze Fennel in a swap, that looks awesome...New York Ironweed, a couple different Milkweeds, and the Agastache foeniculum / Anise hyssop from last year. I swapped a bunch of the Agastache seeds in the WS swap, Brent, you're right, it was cotinually covered with bees

Sometimes just the name of the 'Gardening for Wildlife' forum makes me laugh, it reminds me of an old friend's vegetable garden. As he worked, he would say stuff like, "This is for the deer, this is for the squirrels, Oh, don't forget the mice, they gotta eat, too. Maybe they'll leave some for me this year" muttering to himself as he worked...swearing the whole time. The world's angriest gardener. I just have to watch the grounhog that lives under my shed and a few squirrels.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

'Jacob's Ladder' is the common name for Polemonium reptans, which bees & butterflies like.

Joanne: "My 6 year old will be helping to create a butterfly garden next spring and this site will be a big help." That's the best way to teach little hands all about the wonderful benefits of gardening. It great to get children involved, especially when they are young.

Brent, Verbena bonariensis is another wonderful plant for attracting butterflies & moths to your garden. I hope that wintersowing will reward you by restocking your butterfly host & larvae plants.

Mike: I also plan to wintersow Bronze Fennel, Milkweed & Agastache. All of them are terrific for encouraging 'flying' wildlife. The deer, squirrels & mice seem to do quite well all on their own. Keep a careful watch out for that groundhog. They do have a voracious appetite.

This message was edited Jan 11, 2007 10:15 PM

East Meadow, NY

Good post Shirley! Very important subject! Winter Sowers can effect their local natural environment, if they so wisely they can improve their habitats for wildlife, if they so carelessly, they might introdice a destructive pest plant which can tip the balance by overtaking and crowding out beneficial plants.

On this webpage:
if you scroll down below Tip, you'll find several links to edcuational sites with seed lists, habitat info and a lot more.

I made a large link table for the North American continent that will give you links to places where everyone can go to observe and/or learn about the natural environment--because the more we understand our regional ecosystems, the better we can WS to help these ecosystems.


Sterling, VA(Zone 6b)

I tracked down that booklet that I referenced above:

It is a 27 page booklet titled "Butterfly Gardening in the D.C. Area". It really is a great resource.

- Brent

Marshfield, MO(Zone 6a)

So far I have done

Asclepias several varieties

Anybody know where I could get some Verbena bonariensis seeds?

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Mary, I got some Verbena bonariensis seeds from my plants this fall, but they're a mixed lot -- I'd guess that only about 30% of the mix have that dark color that I think indicates mature seeds. So I'm hesitant to offer them to you for SASBE... however, I may have some other seeds you'd like to make it a worthwhile swap.... Dmail me if somebody doesn't have better looking seeds for you! BTW, I love one of the names I've heard for the, "Verbena-on-a-stick!"

I haven't started WS yet... did most of my wintersowing in Feb. last year, and that worked fine... at least it looks like we're finally going to get some extended cold weather soon!

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Excellent links, Trudi and Brent. I'm bookmarking them for future reference.


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I love the links, too. We are having loads of fun starting seeds for the butterflies and birds.

Three I recommend:

1) Milkweeds for the butterflies (a MUST have!)

2) Verbena bonarienses--- the butterflies LOVE and is easy for us here, but in some regions it can be invasive

3) And Liatris---the most commonly available and very pretty and easy to grow from corms or seed is L. Spicata (Kobold). Butterflies and goldfinches love it. Here is a bit of info on Liatris varieties and seed starting from Specialty Perennials--

Those are three of my favorites for butterlies and birds in general. There are loads of others that are so fun to wintersow for hummingbirds and other EZ to grow flowers that birds love!

Don't forget to check out the 'Hummingbird and Butterfly' forum and the 'Birdwatching' forums for more seed sowing ideas!

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

I'm definitely wintersowing Milkweed this year! Liatris is already growing in my garden, so that leaves me to find Verbena bonarienses.

I've also noticed that butterflies love my Phlox paniculata too.

Thanks tabasco, it's good to see you back in this forum.

Wheatfield, NY(Zone 6a)

speaking of the Hummingbird & Butterfly forum, I learned so much there in the last few months, and one of the most important reasons I wanted to try wintersowing was to get more plants for the butterflies. I have quite a few nectar plants, but really wanted to increase my host plants if I could. the folks over there were EXTREMELY generous with seeds, so I am sowing (host plants)

milkweed (4 different kinds)
maypop (passiflora incarnata)

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

LOL I love wintersowing and I've always been lurking here, I just don't have a lot to add to the communal wisdom. There are so many experienced winter sowers now, I just read and learn! It's really nice to be missed, though!

Above is a good link for Butterfly host plant seed learning and trading, by the way. Most posters on that forum are happy happy happy to trade seeds or send seeds, whatever. Likewise for hummingbird plants/seeds.

I have verbena bonarienses seeds galore that I will be happy to send out to anyone. Just d-mail me your addresses and put 'Verbena bonarienses' in the subject line.

Just to encourage you all, here's a pretty monarch on a zinnia (not in my yard, though!) and it really makes me want to grow loads of zinnias from seed!

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Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

This is a pic of part of my little butterfly garden. I wintersowed some of the rudbeckias and leucantheums, 2 milkweeds, parsley, verbena bonarienses, some cosmos, tassel flowers and a few others last year. I grew the Liatris from corms the year before and they came back again. I jammed a lot a flowers into that little bed and sometimes it looked messy but it was always busy with butterflies, caterpillers and dragonflies. Loads of fun.

We grew a number of plants for ruby throated hummingbirds, too,---too many to mention now and some were more successful than others....definitely worth a try. My neighbors were amazed that I had HBs--they had never seen them before!

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Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

tabasco: Very pretty. Is that prarie sun? I have some of that for this year.

I always plant with hummingbirds in mind, and always keep a feeder full of fresh sugar water. They love me- I have them buzzing around like crazy, fighting to protect their nectar source, even though there's plenty to go around. I expect some flower reseeders from past years for the critters: nasturtium, nicotiana, echinacea, verbena bonariensis, petunia, hollyhocks, 4:00, and probably more that I can't recall. I'm also planning some new ones this year: lots of salvia (splendens, coccinnea, patens, coral nymph), asastache, rud. prarie sun, some 2nd year columbine which haven't bloomed yet, coneflower double decker,

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

I have been looking for some of our hummer photos; finally found one. This is on our front porch with one of those feeders that you hang in a hanging basket of flowers.


Thumbnail by kqcrna
Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Yes, it's rudbekia 'prairie sun'. Not a particular favorite of the butterflies, but very pretty in the garden.

My hollyhocks from last year reseeded themselves and are coming up now. It worries me a little.

I wintersowed cosmos last year for the butterflies and I found out the old fashioned varieties were the favorites. I guess many of the new hybrids are short on nectars.

Cincinnati, OH(Zone 6a)

Geez, I haven't looked to see if I have any hollyhock babies. If it ever stops raining I'll check. After I got so sick last year I wasn't able to deadhead much (I'm usually OCD about it), so I think I might get way too many reseeders of things I don't want. Thanks for the reminder. I used to direct sow cosmos but stopped because our wind and rains always knocked them over, and they reseed like weeds. I have smaller Sensation type to try this year and will try to deadhead.

I like the looks of Prairie Sun, though I've never had it before. I think I'll like it even if the BFs don't.


Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks for all the info tabasco. I'm definitely going to have to catch up on my reading in the 'Butterfly & Hummers Forum'. I can see it becoming my 'newest' addiction'!

Beautiful pictures too. Thanks for posting them tabasco & Karen.

I plan to wintersow a lot more Salvias this year for the hummers and will definitely sow the ones you recommended to encourage more butterflies & moths in the garden. Thanks again!

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

It's not a butterfly or hummer, but bees are very important insects in ones garden too. It obviously was in search of nectar from Phox paniculata, 'David'.

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Braselton, GA(Zone 7b)

Shirley, I am looking for a quick answer to a bug problem...they are gray, squishy, soft bodies, clumping together on my viola and I can't think of their name, I need to know to figure out how to get rid of them...any ideas? Thanks...

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

JanetS: I'm sorry, but I'm not the person to answer your question about bugs. Have you looked in Bug Files or try posting your question on an Insect Forum?

Braselton, GA(Zone 7b)

lol...treated them with murphy's oil soap, dishwasher detergent, and listerine..the plants look better so I will see if they stay off now...thanks anyway!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Luv that bee pic. So neat to see it close up! The bees liked my caryopteris last summer.

Ellicott City, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks tabasco. Yes, Caryopteris is another favorite plant for bees.

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