Zinnias are among my favorite plants. Whenever I plant them, I cannot help but recall pleasant memories of planting them as a child many years ago. Now that I am a wildlife gardener, I am fond of them because the add beauty to my yard and are great wildlife plants too. With that in mind, my wife and I are preparing to plant zinnias for the first time this year. That’s right I said for the first time because my wife and I plant zinnias multiple times a year.
We plant patches of zinnias in our gardens as well as in large planters. The crop we are planting now will begin producing flowers in sixty to seventy days. Once the plants bloom, we prolong the time they bloom by deadheading spent blossoms. By planting zinnias once week for several weeks, we are ensuring that we will enjoy zinnia blossoms and our wildlife neighbors will have access to the food they provide well into the fall.
My wife and I have had the best luck attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and our nectar feeders using single-flowered varieties. They provide hummingbirds easy access to the plant’s nectar. In addition, many butterflies seem to prefer feeding on the relatively flat surface offered by the flat landing area found on the blooms of old fashion varieties.
While butterflies visit zinnias for their nectar, hummingbirds also eat the tiny insects often found on zinnia blooms. In fact, it has been suggested they visit zinnias as much for the protein provided by insects as they do nectar.
My wife and I also enjoy watching American goldfinches visit our zinnias during the summer. The birds spend day after day pulling the petals off zinnia flowers to reach the seeds found at base of the petals.
I think it is great that zinnias enhance by backyard wildlife viewing opportunities by attracting hummingbirds, scores of butterflies and American goldfinches.
I hope you will plant them in your garden this year. If you do, I will be surprised if they do not offer you some great wildlife viewing too.
Two of our fellow bloggers have responded to the recent post regarding where homeowners can purchase native plants. Here is the contact information they have provided.
Flat Creek Natives Phone: 478-955-1731
Comments: The blogger that suggested this addition to the list commented those interested in purchasing plants are required to make an appointment with the nursery owner Greg Lewis. Details can be found on the nursery’s Facebook page.
Nearly Native Nursery Phone: 770-460-6248
770 McBride Road email: nearlynative nursery.com
Fayetteville, Georgia 30215.
Telephone Number: 770-460-6249
There is a growing interest in incorporating Georgia native plants home landscapes across the state. However, whenever I make a presentation dealing with native plants of value to wildlife, invariably I am asked, “Where can I purchase these valuable plants?”
There is indeed a paucity of reputable wild plant dealers in Georgia. In fact, I am convinced the inability of gardeners to purchase wild plants is limiting the numbers of homeowners that are incorporating Georgia native plants in their home landscapes.
With this in mind, whenever I come across a reputable nursery that deals in native plants I am going to share contact information relating to these organizations with you.
In hopes of adding to this list as time goes by, please let me know about a native plant dealer that you have dealt with. This information will help me expand the list in the future.
Here is a list of four nurseries that can help you add a new dimension to your garden this spring.
Asclepias and More Phone: 706-533-1149
1055 Fieldstone Road
Grovetown, Georgia 30813
Vincent Gardens Phone: 912-381-0644
1960 East Baker Highway
Douglas, Georgia 31535
State Botanical Garden of Georgia Phone: 706-542-1244
2450 S. Milledge Avenue
Athens, Georgia 30606
Native Forest Nursery Phone: 706-483-3397
Chatsworth, Georgia 30705
Since most wildlife gardeners are finding room in their gardens for native plants that benefit hummingbirds, bees, moths and other wild pollinators, it is important that they know what they are buying.
The first thing to keep is never buy plants actually taken from the wild. Always buy native plants from reputable plant dealers that sell plants grown in nurseries. The ensures that wild populations of native plants are not decimated.
Also, be certain you are purchasing the correct plant. You can never be sure what you are getting when you refer to a plant only by its common name. Many different plants often share the same common name. For this reason, always provide a dealer with both the plant’s common and scientific name. This eliminates any ambiguity as to what you have in mind.
It is also important to know whether you are purchasing a hybrid. Often hybrids do not produce the same amount of pollen and/or nectar as the original form of the plant. The reason for this is during the hybridization process the focus is often on developing varieties that display traits the plant breeders feel are improvements on the natural form of the plant. In many cases, in the attempt to attain these goals, the variety’s ability to produce nectar and/or pollen is either lost or diminished. If you purchase a hybrid and later discover it does not benefit wild pollinators you are not going to be happy.
Therefore, before you purchase a hybrid, do a little research, and make sure it produces nectar and pollen.
Those of us who try to stock our gardens with a variety hummingbird nectar plants are constantly on the lookout for something new. Too often, this quest leads us to nonnative plants while overlooking native plants. One of these native plants, the lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata), may actually be blooming in your yard. In fact, I found a few lyreleaf sage plants blooming in my yard.
The lyreleaf sage grows in a wide variety of locations. It can be found anywhere from open woods, roadsides, lawns, damp meadows to dry waste sites. In spite of the fact that the plant displays beautiful lavender blossoms on a slender stalk (1-2 feet tall) it is often overlooked. In fact, many homeowners consider it a weed and mow it down.
Lyreleaf sage begins blooming as early in February in some parts of Georgia and will continue blooming into May. One of the reasons I am so fond of this plant is it provides hummingbirds with a source of nectar early in the spring when nectar is often scarce. The plant also attracts butterflies and bees to its nectar-laden showy blooms.
The plant readily reseeds often forming robust colonies. However, as with many roadside and pasture plants, mowing often hinders its ability to reproduce.
If you are fond of salvias, you will love this native salvia. Although its blossoms are small, they are every bit as beautiful as the salvias the grace our gardens.
Although you can purchase lyreleaf sage seeds, they are often pricey. I have seen 20 seeds cost more than six dollars. Before you go out and buy some lyreleaf salvia seeds, explore your yard, there is a chance it has been hiding there in plain sight. If you do not locate it, I honestly believe it would be worthwhile spending a little money to get it established.
When most gardeners think about adding plants that provide nectar to hummingbirds to their gardens, often native plants are overlooked.
There are many reasons why natives are desirable additions to any garden. These special plants help restore the diversity of native plants to the areas where they are planted. This is extremely important to the untold numbers of animals that depend on native plants for their survival. They are also as attractive as ornamentals, are often drought tolerant, more resistant to insect pests, and require little, if any pruning.
I hope you will add some of the 10 of the plants listed below to your garden. Believe me, if you do, you will soon be wondering why you did not do so years ago.
Bee Balm (Oswego Tea) (Monarda didyma) – Type of Plant – perennial; Height – 1 to 5 feet; Blooms – June to September; Soil – moist to well drained; Light – full sun to partial shade.
Buckeye, Red (Aesculus pavia) – Type of Plant – shrub or small tree; Height – 20+ feet; Blooms – March to May; Soil – well drained, moist soil types are best; Light – partial shade to full sun.
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) – Type of Plant– short-lived perennial; Height – 1-8 feet; Blooms – midsummer; Soil – well-drained, moist to dry soil types; Light – full sun to partial shade.
Columbine, Eastern (Aquilegia canadensis) – Type of Plant – short-lived perennial; Height – 1-3 feet; Blooms – late winter to early spring; Soil – well drained, moist; Light – partial shade to partial sun.
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) – Type of Plant – Perennial vine; Length – 16 feet; Blooms – mainly March – September, will bloom throughout most of the year in some locales; Soil – moist to dry soils; Light – full sun to light shade.
Horsemint (Monarda fistulosa) – Type of Plant – perennial; Height – 1 to 5 feet; Blooms – June to September; Soil – dry to well drained; Light – partial shade to full sun.
Jewelweed (Touch-Me-Not) (Impatiens capensis) – Type of Plant – Annual herb; Height – 2 to 5 feet; Blooms – May to October; Soil – well drained, moist; Light – shade to partial sun.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis) – Type of Plant -shrub to small tree; Height – up to 35 feet; Blooms – late winter to early spring; Soil – dry to well drained; Light – partial shade to full sun.
Sage, Scarlet (Salvia coccinea) – Type of Plant – Annual; Height – 2 to 3 feet; Blooms – from late spring throughout the summer; Soil – dry to moist well drained; Light – full sun.
Trumpet Creeper (Hummingbird Vine) (Campsis radicans) – Type of Plant – woody vine; Length – 36 or more feet; Blooms – summer; Soil – moist to dry; Light – light shade to full sun.
Help Hummingbirds and Other Native Wildlife
If you are interested in helping hummingbirds, butterflies and other Georgia wildlife, earn certification in the Community Wildlife Project’s Hummingbird Haven and Gardening with Georgia Native Plants initiatives. For more information contact: Melissa Hayes at 478-994-1438 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Interest in incorporating native plants into home landscapes has never been greater. However, homeowners often tell me they want to plant natives in their yards; however, they simply cannot find them.
Indeed, this is a problem in many areas in the state. It seems most nurseries stock few, if any native plant. However, there are nurseries that sell native when. The problem is most people do not know who or where they are.
In an effort to remedy this situation, I am creating a list of nurseries that sell plants native to Georgia.
The first nursery on the list is Vincent Gardens (vincentgardens.com). This nursery is located in Douglas, Georgia.
While plants can be bought at the nursery, they do a brisk mail order business.
When you visit their colorful and informative website, you will find scores of plants; most of these plants are native to Georgia. Each plant has some value to wildlife.
Most plants are illustrated with a color photo. Accompanying the photo is a details description of the plant’s foliage type, hardiness zone, light preference, mature height and growth type, soil preference, blooming time, wildlife use, and whether or not it is a larval host plant.
Oaks are among the very best native wild food plants. The trees themselves are used as a host plant by well more than 500 species of moths and butterflies. If that is not enough, their seeds (acorns) provide food for scores of birds and mammals, many of which inhabit out backyard.
As such, it is not surprising many homeowners want one or more oaks growing in their yards. The problem is it takes a long time to produce a crop of acorns. Laurel oaks usually do not produce their first acorn until they are 15-20 years old. Water oaks bear acorns in around 20 years. On the other end of the scale, scarlet, southern red and white oaks can take 50 or more years before they sport their first acorns.
With that in mind, when clearing a lot for a new home or simply opening up an existing yard, try to leave an oak that might shortly or already bearing acorns.
If you do not already have an oak on your property, go ahead and plant one. Although it might take what seems like a very long time before you will see its first acorn, realize time flies by quicker than you might think. In the meantime, think about all of the moths and butterflies that will be raised on your tree before it matures.