towers for butterflies

Chromolaena_odorata_(Common_floss_flower)_W_IMG_1450.jpg

upright blue mist flower
Chromolaena odorata
asteraceae

  • MODERATE TO REGULAR WATER (BOTTOM ZONE)

  • FULL TO PART SUN

  • Freezes to ground in mid 20s°F but root hardy in our region.

  • 3-4 FEET TALL AND WIDE, MUCH LARGER IN MORE FAVORABLE CONDITIONS

  • purplish blue flowers mostly in fall

  • irresistible to adult butterflies and other nectar-loving insects

  • medicinal plant

This plant and its various cousins (like the more commonly found but lower-growing Conoclinium greggii) have had some botanical name changes and you may know them as Eupatorium species. These changes are annoying but are made to reflect the evolutionary relationships between species. As we learn more about genetics, our methods for determining relationships between species are being reflected in the taxonomy of plants. So be patient with botanists when they update names.

I digress. Blue mist flower is a very interesting plant and not common in the trade. It has the benefit of being a much larger plant that when blooming, holding its nectar-rich, purplish blue flowers high for the butterflies to find. This plant will occasionally need to be whacked back after it blooms. In cold years, or colder parts of our region, it may go dormant. But it comes back readily and spreads. When you do research on butterflies like we do, you often see pictures of adult butterflies on mist flowers (all the species) because they are irresistible to butterflies.

Grow in full to part sun (they bloom better with sun exposure), and water regularly to moderately once established. In a protected, shady spot they may climb high in other shrubs. Cut back in spring and feed occasionally. Plants are more compact in sunnier spots. Their main blooming season is fall, but they can bloom at other times of the warm season when conditions are favorable.

The foliage has an interesting odor and the plant has a long history of medicinal use in Mexico. Native to Southern Texas south into Mexico and the Caribbean.

Katherine Gierlach