Q: We live in Western North Carolina and are just settling into our new home since last September. I took this picture this afternoon of this gorgeous butterfly on a bush outside our home that I would like to cultivate. It has a gazillion blooms and the butterflies are checking them all out which gives me plenty of time to get some good photographs.
Can you tell me the name of this bush? Can it be cultivated with cuttings? Can I buy seeds or plants from you?
That beautiful tiger swallowtail butterfly is feasting upon the blooms of one of my favorite late summer wildflowers, Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum). the plant likes sun and moist soil and grows anywhere from 4 to 10 feet tall, depending on the abundance of tTe moisture. Its pink and rosy flowers are magnets for butterflies. A good trick to get even more flowers for next year is to pinch out the tips of all the shoots in early summer. Each shoot will then become two shoots, doubling the flower show. The easiest way to propagate it is by letting it go to seed — the seedlings will come up all around. But I’ll bet you could root cuttings quite easily. Just take a tip cutting, strip off the lowest set of leaves, dip the cut end in rooting powder, and stick the cutting into moist potting soil. You can also divide the plant in fall or spring. I don’t sell plants (heck, I barely water them), but you can order Joe-pye weed from Niche Gardens and Sunlight Gardens.
Another native wildflower I’m seeing now is called ironweed (Vernonia sp.). It too likes sun and moist soil and is often found near streams and drainage ditches. It grows 5-10 feet tall. The most notable thing about it is the very showy purple flowers that lack true petals. I’ve often thought it was one of the most attractive and underappreciated flowers for late summer. You can increase its flowers using the same technique as described above and order it from the same places. Here’s a photo of it the Grump took last week.