Bring in the butterflies.

April is usually associated with Easter bunnies but how about planting for Easter butterflies instead?

Our rainy January has created the perfect conditions for sowing some quick flowering annuals that will be at their best in April. Seeds germinate easily in soft, wet soil and seedlings thrive with the alternating showers and hot sun.

A quick reminder why butterflies are so important for our planet.

  • Next to bees they are out most efficient pollinators, helping flowers, vegetables and fruit to produce seeds.
  • As caterpillars they play a role in increasing biodiversity by attracting birds, bats, lizards and spiders who feed on them.
  • They are indicators of environmental health because they are so sensitive to habitat and climate change.

Besides that, butterflies are just beautiful to observe, reminding us of the wonders of nature. The world famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough believes that the simple act of watching butterflies in in a home garden is good for our mental health.

Marlaen Straathof of Kirchhoffs seeds reminds us that seed sown by end January still has four months to grow and flower. Here are her recommendations for some quick summer into autumn annuals to sow for butterflies:

Alyssum ‘Snow Carpet’ is a low growing groundcover covered with tiny fragrant white flowers that are a magnet for bees as well as butterflies. It is free flowering and performs even better as the weather cools. Make space for it along borders and edgings, in mixed containers and rockeries.

Sow directly where the plants are to grow and thin out to 10cm between plants. It will flower 45 days from germination.

Cosmos Sensation Mixed’ produces graceful showy flowers up to 90 cm high that bloom until the first frost. This easy to grow flower tolerates  poor soil and hot, humid conditions. Sow seed directly into the flowerbed and thin out later. Generally, 1g of seed is needed per m². Cover the seed lightly and keep moist during germination.

The large flowers in shades of pure white to purplish pink with yellow centre provide an airy background for borders and are pickable for the home. Remove dead flower heads to prolong flowering.

Asters are an old fashioned favourite and ‘Single Rainbow Mixed’ consistsof fragrant single flowers in a range of colours including blue, purple, rose, pink and scarlet, all with a yellow centre. The 60 – 70cm tall plants produce stems of pickable flowers that last well in the garden as well as in the vase. They are easy to grow from seed and plants should be spaced 25cm apart.

Cornflowers are another old fashioned garden flower although ‘Polka Dot Mixed’ is a dwarf variety, growingto just 30 to 45cm high, half the size of a regular cornflowers. The frilly pastel blooms in shades and colours, from white to pale pink and blues, through to purples and plums, make charming flower bouquets and posies.

Marigold ‘Bonita Choice Mixed’ is adwarf French marigold that is great for gardens and containers in full sun. The mix of yellow, red and bicoloured crested blooms on compact plants are magnets for butterflies. These  hardy bedding plants are quick to flower and thrive in hot conditions.

There are two varieties of Zinnia that are very easy to grow from seed. ‘Thumbelina Mixed’ is a midget zinnia growing up to 15cm and withsmall, semi-double and single flowers. ThisAll-America Selections winner is a compact, dome-shaped plant that is suitable for pots, low beds and edgings. It blooms until the first frost.

‘Lucky Day Mixed’ is a taller zinnia (60cm tall) with  extra-large dahlia-type flowers on strong, sturdy stems. It is an excellent cut flower. Water well around the base of the plant during dry weather an avoid overhead watering.

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