29 Mar 2019
I often feel like I live in a Disney movie as I look out of the windows of my Westchester home. Deer, squirrels, chipmunks, robins, cardinals, blue jays and the occasional brown bunny visit my yard. I enjoy this view of nature and look forward to that extra Technicolor magic of spotting the first butterflies and hummingbirds flitting across the yard.
Spring is the perfect time to add plants to your patio, deck, terrace or backyard garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Have you ever experienced the tiny whirring motor sound of a hummingbird darting past your head? These lovely additions to a garden are more than just decorations. Butterflies and hummingbirds are pollinators and they need our help. The use of pesticides and the lack of nectar-rich flowers impact their habitat.
Plan Your Pollinators’ Paradise
Invite butterflies and hummingbirds into your garden by creating a pollinators’ paradise to provide nourishing nectar all season. Butterflies and hummingbirds arrive as early as May to search for nectar. Butterflies swoop down and land on flowers while hummingbirds hover as they drink nectar. Grains of pollen attach to their bodies as they feed which is transferred from flower to flower. Pollination is necessary for the propagation of many flowering fruit plants including blueberries, tomatoes, grapes and apples. Bumblebees, honeybees and moths also promote pollination, an essential link for food production in the garden.
A painter’s palette of colorful annuals and perennials can be planted in a home garden to attract and support butterflies and hummingbirds. Locations with full sun exposure are preferable. Amy Albam, Community Horticulture Educator at the Cornell Cooperative Extension for Westchester County, recommends lantana (butterfly bush), heliotrope, dahlia, cosmos, aster, zinnia, impatiens, salvia and sedum.
Visit a Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden
Monarch, swallowtail, skipper, fritillary, sulphur, and American painted lady butterflies can all be found in Westchester County. A wonderful place to get ideas for your own backyard pollinators’ paradise is the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden at the Pruyn Sanctuary Gardens in Chappaqua. Part of the Saw Mill River Audubon Society, the Garden is designed to attract and shelter a variety of butterflies, moths and ruby-throated hummingbirds. All of the plants are labeled to make your own garden plans easier to visualize. During the summer months, the vibrant garden blooms in pinks, reds, oranges, yellows and purples!
Donna Lassiter manages the design and maintenance of the Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden. Ms. Lassiter is a Master Gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County. An advocate for using native plants whenever possible, Ms. Lassiter recommends planting nectar producing plants including purple coneflower/Echinacea, Joe-Pye weed/Eupatorium fistulosum, mistflower/Eupatorium colestinum, anise hyssop/Agastache foeniculum, and garden phlox/Phlox paniculata. (Garden phlox is a “butterfly magnet!”)
Lassiter’s favorite plant for attracting hummingbirds is coral honeysuckle/Lonicera sempervirens. “Hummingbirds love it!” Ruby-throated hummingbirds can be seen in Westchester from May through September.
Try Planters & Hanging Baskets
Turn any outdoor space into a welcoming butterfly and hummingbird haven. Nectar-rich annuals and perennials of different heights and shapes in pinks, reds, purples and oranges will attract pollinators from early spring through fall. Popular pollinator-friendly flowering plants for decorative containers and hanging baskets include zinnia, geranium, begonia, fuchsia, dwarf phlox, and impatiens. A joy to behold and a treat for the senses!