While many gardeners give in to annual temptation, there are a few potential problems with purchasing replacement plants each year:
1. Depending on the plant, this can get pretty expensive
2. You can’t be certain the plant will always be available
3. The plant never surpasses first year growth
One way to rise above cold weather limitations is by taking up the winter sport of indoor gardening.
When deciding which annual plants to bring in, here are a few factors to consider:
1. Year One
Will a ‘starter plant’ annual put forth flowers its first year?
If the answer is no, overwintering becomes mandatory if you choose to grow it. If you buy a Mexican flame vine starter plant, it probably won’t bloom its first season.
By overwintering, you’ll start getting brilliant orange blooms in year two. In my opinion, this makes it worth the effort.
If a plant isn’t affordable and readily available, isn’t it worth holding on to?
3. Response to overwintering
Some plants may have issues overwintering indoors. Research on google and facebook groups to see if other gardeners have had success before committing to winter care.
Some plants obviously take up more room than others. Make a plan before bringing in your pots to make sure you can accommodate your new house guests.
5. Do they Support your Local Ecosystem?
There’s nothing wrong with having a plant or two in the garden just because you like it. However, if your purpose of having a garden is to support monarchs and other pollinators, you’ll want the majority of your garden plants to help achieve that goal.
8 Annual Butterfly Plants Worth Overwintering
Click any orange links below if you are interested in more info or to purchase seeds and plants.
This warm weather climbing vine has brilliant orange flowers and was a monarch-favorite in our garden this summer. If you purchase a starter pant in annual climates it won’t flower the first year. More flame vine info
2016 UPDATE: This plant has been nothing short of amazing the past four seasons on our windmill trellis, completely engulfing it in orange flames. It has attracted monarchs, swallowtails, hummingbirds, and bumble bees in our northern garden.
This floriferous climber should make everybody’s short list!
Discover how to create a full patch of tropical next season, by bringing in just one or two plants.
2016 UPDATE- I also tried spring sowing tropical milkweed seeds in March with great results
Gardeners in warmer regions (e.g. Texas) should also consider overwintering tropical milkweed in case monarchs make it back before there is enough native milkweed to support them.
For the past two seasons I have successfully overwintered the the close relative of swan milkweed, called the balloon plant.
Unfortunately, I haven’t noticed a 2nd year growth spurt by starting with physocarpus plants.
2016 UPDATE- swan milkweed wasn’t that impressive after overwintering either. It did develop seed pods earlier, but I might opt for first year plants growing forward.
The flowers are nothing short of spectacular and they have a long summer bloom period. They are a host plant for both the gulf and variegated fritillary butterflies. In our northern garden, the flowers attracted small pollinators. This is the most cold hardy of passion vines.
It has been reported to be aggressive with underground rhizomes, which is why we leave it in a container year round…
Lantana is pretty easy to find in nurseries across North America, but I’ve never been able to find this particular variety in Minnesota. ‘Miss Huff’ is cold hardy down to zone 7 and is reported to be a butterfly favorite. I ordered two plants and will be overwintering them indoors.
I’ll be curious to see if the butterflies were looking for a different lantana variety, or just preferred our other plants instead…
2015 UPDATE– I can now tell you ‘Miss Huff’ overwinters easily, along with other lantana varieties. More importantly, I can report I saw monarchs on Miss Huff almost daily this season…definitely overwintering these again!
We are also overwintering Trailing Grape Lantana, which swallowtails and other pollinators visit frequently.
2016 UPDATE- all lantana overwinters beautifully. It’s definitely worth overwintering if you have a variety that’s not easy to find locally.
I overwintered this last season. It didn’t like our cool spring, and it also appeared to protest its initial spot in the garden. Summer heat and sunnier accommodations have seen this ugly duckling bloom into a graceful garden swan. It attracts bumble bees and I’ve seen monarchs on it too.
2016 UPDATE- This was going to be the final season of ‘sapphire showers’, so I took it out of its container and planted it directly in our raised beds. It was nothing short of spectacular. It bloomed prolifically, while attracting monarchs, bees, and hummingbirds. It was happy in a new spot, not overshadowed by the monstrous popcorn ‘tree’.
And speaking of popcorn…
This graceful feathery shrub with yellow flower stalks makes a statement in the butterfly garden. Rub the leaves between your fingers and they’ll smell exactly like buttered popcorn. It attracts some pollinators and I’ve even seen a few monarchs on it. It’s also a host plant for cloudless sulphur butterflies.
This is one of the first plants people ask about in our butterfly garden because it’s such a grand spectacle!
Butterfly bush attracts monarchs, many other butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and moths. If you live in a region where it’s potentially invasive many of the dwarf varieties are non-invasive or even sterile.
We lost 3 butterfly bushes last winter. In hindsight, it would have been good insurance to pot 1 or 2 to bring indoors or take cuttings to start new plants in late summer. I won’t be making that mistake this season!
I hope this gives you some helpful ideas about which annual plants you could bring in this winter. If you’re looking for more ideas check out my Butterfly Plants Page.
Once you’ve decided which butterfly plants to bring indoors click here for 8 tips on overwintering.