Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Butterfly magnets

Yellow cestrum and blue bottletree.

On my spring pilgrimage to The Antique Rose Emporium last year, I was looking around for some additional butterfly magnet plants to add to my garden. One of the attendants suggested to me that I try yellow cestrum. She said that she had it in her garden and that it did qualify as a butterfly magnet. Plus, it had made it through the just-ended cold winter and had already started blooming again. She assured me that the plant bloomed all year long.

Uh huh, I thought, typical plant salesman hyperbole.

I knew nothing about yellow cestrum, but I decided to take a chance on it. I brought the plant home in April of last year. It was in bloom when I planted it and it bloomed continuously from then until a killing frost in December finally put it to rest. Furthermore, every single day that it bloomed it was visited by butterflies. It seemed that the ARE attendant had not exaggerated after all.

During the winter, I decided to move the plant, because, well, that's what I do. I move my plants around until I'm convinced that I've finally found the perfect spot for them. In the case of the cestrum, I wanted to move it closer to one of my backyard sitting areas so that I could sit and more comfortably watch the butterfly action around the plant. This, I thought, would be an ultimate test of the plant's hardiness.

Several weeks ago, I moved it. The plant didn't miss a beat. In early March, I noticed it was putting out tiny leaves and covering itself with bloom buds. Over the past week, those buds have been opening up. Just in time to feed my first Monarch butterfly visitor of the year.

She arrived today and she was hungry!

In addition to being hungry, she was obviously on a mission. I think she visited every single milkweed plant I have in the yard, including this one that was still wilted from having recently been moved. Didn't seem to bother the expectant mother.

I worry about my poor little plants, though, because they are all just three or four inches tall, hardly big enough to support a big population of Monarch caterpillars. I've been intending to purchase some bigger plants from the nursery, but have been procrastinating, as I am wont to do. No more procrastination! The time has come. Tomorrow I WILL get more and bigger plants.

An interesting thing happened while I was watching this butterfly. Another female Monarch dropped in and tried to visit the milkweed, but my first visitor was having none of that! She chased the interloper out of the yard! Maybe she realized there really wasn't enough of the plant to share. All the more reason to get more plants.

But speaking of butterfly magnets, yesterday I got a couple of new citrus trees. It didn't take long for the citrus-loving Giant Swallowtail to find them.

This is a 'Page' Mandarin orange tree. The butterfly spent a considerable amount of time visiting it and its blossoms.

When it comes to butterfly magnets, it is strictly a matter of "to each his or her own." For Monarchs, the ultimate goal is milkweed but for the Giant Swallowtail, it's citrus.

They both like that yellow cestrum though.


  1. I've never seen the yellow cestrum but we're only 45 min. from the San Antonio Antique Rose Emporium so I'm putting it on my list. I only have coral honeysuckle in bloom now (and anacacho orchid tree, redbuds, burford hollies, & a couple of other berrying trees/bushes. More for bees, less for butterflies & hummingbirds. And we've got LOTS of hummers now. 4 feeders up, refilling daily!

  2. I had never heard of cestrum before my encounter at ARE, but it has been a particularly useful addition to my butterfly garden.

    Wow, you must really be overrun with hummers, Kathleen. I had two visiting last week but I think they have moved on now. They are coming in waves these days.