A message from Extension Pollinator Garden Writer Sally Whaley

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Extension Pollinator Gardens

By Sally Whaley

Hello, all you grateful gardeners! Well, you now have the warmer, dryer weather that you requested to have your garden flourish. In our Extension Pollinator Garden, our plants are starting to make the landscape colorful. This month we will talk about the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Autumn).

This photo is of the Butterfly Weed (Ascelpias tuberosa). The very beautiful orange blossoms attract butterflies, hummingbirds, native bees, bumble bees and honey bees. The leaves and stalks are larval hosts to Grey Hairstreak, Monarch, and Queens.

The Butterfly Weed is a perennial from the Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed) family. Our specimen has large bright orange flowers with long, pointed, and smooth edged leaves. The flowers can be yellow or red. It blooms from May until September and loves a sunny spot with well-drained dry to moist sandy soil. It has a high drought tolerance. The flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds and are of special value to Native Bees, Bumble Bees, and Honey Bees.

It is a nectar source to many and resistant to deer. This plant is in the 1-3 ft. size class. It is considered an herb but does have poisonous parts. The warning for poisonous parts include the roots and plant sap from all parts. These are not edible and toxic if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include vomiting, stupor, weakness, and spasms. Toxic Principle: Resinoid, a cardiac glycoside. Native Habitat is in prairies, open woods, canyons, and hillsides throughout most of the state. The Butterfly weed with its showy, bright color makes it great in a cut flower arrangement.


Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Autumn). Currently, this Autumn Joy Sedum is not in bloom but will be blooming in the coming weeks.

Autumn Joy Sedum (Hylotelephium 'Autumn) is a perennial that has pink flowers that bloom from August into November. They will grow to a height of 1 to 3 ft. They prefer moderately fertile, moist soil in full sun, but will also do well in drier soil and part shade. Pruning to 6 to 8 inches will shorten the plant and delay flowering. Propagation of this plant can be done by root cuttings or leaves in early summer. If planting by seed will want to start in the fall and divide in the spring. Autumn Joy Sedum attracts Bees and Butterflies to its showy flowers and seed heads. They come in a variety of pinks and reds. Some problems that may occur with them are mealybugs, scale insects, slugs, and snails, as well as bigger critters, including deer. Sedum is generally a low maintenance plant.

Last month we talked about

Virginia Spiderwort


Dayflower family (Commelinaceae)

Each month the Extension Pollinator Garden Project will profile a plant that is currently in the garden. This month's selection is the native Virginia Spiderwort. The information comes from the website - http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/

Virginia Spiderwort is fairly common in central and southern Illinois, while it is uncommon or absent in northern and extreme western Illinois. In grows in various locations including moist black soil prairies, sand prairies, savannas, thickets, openings and edges of woodlands, sandstone cliffs, and powerline clearances through woodland areas. This plant usually doesn't stray far from areas with trees and shrubby vegetation.

The preference is partial sun and moist to mesic conditions. It also tolerates light shade, and full sun if the soil is sufficiently moist. Growth is best in a fertile loamy soil, but some sand or gravel is acceptable. During droughts, the tips or outer lengths of the leaves may turn yellow or brown. This plant is easy to grow and rarely troubled by foliar disease

The violet flowers grow in clusters and have no scent. The leaves are long and linear, drooping in the middle. Each flower opens up during the morning and closes during the early afternoon on sunny days, but may remain open longer on cloudy days or when it remains in the shade. The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer and lasts about 1½ months. During this time, the flowers bloom sporadically, rather than all at once.

Bumblebees are the most important pollinators of the flowers. Other bee visitors include honeybees, Little Carpenter bees, and Halictine bees. This plant can be found in the bed by the sign at the Pollinator Garden.