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New edibles to try

On Deck sweet corn, bred for growing in a container. Photo courtesy Burpee.com

Please don’t make me leave Indiana, but as a gardener I’ve only grown sweet corn once. It was a bust. The plants took up a huge amount of space in my small garden and none of the ears developed. Even raccoons turned up their noses.

I’m going to try again this year. I ordered ‘On Deck’ sweet corn seeds from Burpee, a new hybrid bred for containers. Burpee says to sow nine seeds of this supersweet variety in a 24-inch wide pot. Harvest should come in two months, with each 4-5 foot stalk yielding two or three 7-8 inch long ears.

Corn is wind pollinated, which is why it is planted in blocks, rather than long rows. I’m hoping that by having nine plants in one pot, the ears will pollinate well and I’ll have fresh-picked corn to eat this summer.

I’m going to grow the corn in a Smart Pot, a container made of fabric spun from recycled plastic bottles. I might even do two pots of ‘On Deck’ corn, planting the second one a couple of weeks after the first to extend the harvest. After all, I’ve had good luck growing potatoes in these pots. Gardeners are nothing, if not hopeful and optimistic.

A few years ago, I trialed ‘Peppermint Stick’ celery, a Ball Seed introduction, and I’m going to grow it again this year. It was delicious and very easy to grow. I ordered these seeds from Urban Farmer in Westfield, Indiana. I plan to grow the celery in a Smart Pot, too.

‘Peppermint Stick’ celery can be grown in a pot or in the ground. Photo courtesy Ball Horticultural Co.

Next up are ‘Short Stuff’ Chantenay carrots, which are also going in a Smart Pot. With husky, plump, 4-inch long roots, the sweet carrots should do fine. The seeds are from Renee’s Garden. Harvest is about 70 days from sowing. The shape and size should be perfect for roasting.

I’ll let you know how these new plants work for me. I hope you’ll try some new or different plants, too.

March garden checklist

Soil readiness.

Soil readiness.

Indoors

  • Prune, repot and clean houseplants as needed.
  • Fertilize houseplants as new growth appears. Follow label directions.
  • Sketch garden plans, including what to grow, spacing, arrangement, number of plants needed and sequence.
  • Order seeds and plants as early as possible for best selection.
  • Place Easter lily, florist azalea, cyclamen and other seasonal flowering plants in bright, indirect sunlight. Keep soil moist.
  • Pot up summer flowering bulbs to be transplanted outdoors later, including tuberous begonias, caladiums and cannas.
  • Start seeds of warm season vegetables and flowers in early March in southern Indiana. In northern and central Indiana, wait until late March or early April. Transplant outdoors when danger of frost is past, usually mid-May.

General Landscape

  • Warm spring days tempt us into the garden to prepare the soil and begin planting. However, do not work the soil if it is wet. If soil is worked too early, its structure is damaged. Here’s an easy test: Take a handful of soil.  If it crumbles in your hand, the soil is ready to work. If it forms a ball, the soil is too wet.
  • Prepare tools for their summer job. Sharpen mower blades.

    Prepare lawn and garden equipment for upcoming growing season. Sharpen blades and have equipment serviced as early as possible.

  • Prune trees and shrubs except those that bloom early in spring.
  • Plant container grown and balled-and-burlapped trees and shrubs as soon as the soil dries enough to be worked. Plant bare-root plants before they leaf out.
  • Fertilize woody plants before new growth begins but after soil temperatures have reached 40 degrees, usually early March in southern Indiana and late March in the north.
  • Apply horticulture oil spray, if needed, to control scale insects and mites when tips of leaves start to protrude from buds.
  • Avoid walking on soft ground. Walking on soil compacts it.
  • Seed bare spots in lawn.
  • Apply corn gluten, a natural pre-emergent herbicide, when grass starts active growth in southern Indiana only. Wait until April in the north . Corn gluten keeps weed seeds from sprouting but does not kill existing plants. For more info: University of Minnesota’s Corn Gluten Meal: A Natural Pre-Emergence Herbicide.
  • Remove leaves, twigs and trash from yard.
  • Set lawn mower to cut at 3 ½ to 4-inches high.
  • Cut to the ground perennials that were left standing for winter interest. Divide and transplant perennials when soil can be worked.
  • Cut ornamental grasses as close to the ground as possible. Transplant or divide ornamental grasses.
  • Remove winter covering from roses as soon as new growth begins. Prune and fertilize as needed.
  • Sow seed or plant seedlings of cool-season and half-hardy annuals, including calendula, larkspur, poppy, snapdragons, English daisy, pansies and sunflowers.
  • Harden off transplants by setting them outdoors during the day for about a week before planting.
  • Follow last fall’s soil test recommendations for fertilizer and pH; soil also can be tested this spring.

Vegetables and Fruits

  • Plant seedlings of cool season vegetables and flowers as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. These include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peas, spinach, lettuces, radishes and beets. For more details on specific vegetables and planting dates, see Purdue University’s Home Gardener’s Guide.
  • Remove old asparagus and rhubarb tops; side dress with nitrogen or manure.
  • Plant or transplant asparagus, rhubarb and small fruit plants.
  • Remove winter mulch from strawberry beds as soon as new growth begins; keep mulch nearby to protect against frost and freezes.
  • Before new growth begins on raspberry plants, remove canes that fruited last year and any that are weak, diseased or damaged.
  • Prune grape vines to remove dead or weakened limbs. Repair trellises as needed.

 

 

 

That warm weather tease and its threat to plants

Bring a little spring indoors by cutting the branches of forsythia and other spring-flowering shrubs to force into bloom. © Yotka/Depositphotos.com

A lot of gardeners are going to be worried about their plants as we come through a week of 60 F days. The warmth will encourage daffodils and other spring bulbs to emerge from the ground and bloom, likely weeks earlier than normal.

And then the buds on spring-blooming trees and shrubs, such as redbud and lilacs, will begin to fatten up, preparing for their seasonal show. Again, this will likely be several weeks ahead of their normal schedule.

We may even see several plants blooming at the same time rather than their seasonal schedule.

As soon as normal temperatures or a cold spell return, we’ll all be concerned about any frost or freeze damage to our plants and wonder if we should do anything.

You don’t have to do anything. Mother Nature will take care of everything, so don’t fret. It’s possible some flowers may get frosted out or buds experience a freeze, but more than likely, the plants will survive to bloom again another year.

If a hard freeze threatens, consider cutting daffodils, tulips and other spring-blooming bulbs for indoor arrangements. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

If a bunch of daffodils, tulips or other bulbs are up and budded, cut them for indoor enjoyment.

While you’re at it, snip a few branches from spring-flowering shrubs, too. Forsythia, flowering almond, pussy willow, flowering quince and others are good candidates for forcing for indoor arrangements.

When temperatures are above freezing, snip 12-18 inch long branches with swelling buds by making an angle cut. Be selective in which branches you remove so that you don’t destroy the natural form of the tree or shrub.

Strip off any leaves or buds that will be submerged and arrange the branches in a clean vase with warm water. Place in a cool location. Change the water every two or three days and wash the vase to reduce the chance bacteria or mold will develop. It may take one to three weeks for the branches to bloom.

 

Ideas to reimagine your garden

Alpine trough garden with Chick Charms Sempervivum Hens Chicks and drought-proof, hardy succulent SunSparkler Sedums. Photo courtesy Chris Hansen

One of the reasons I go to garden-related seminars is to learn something. During “The Garden Reimagined,” a recent horticulture symposium at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, I got a primer on magnolias; some rock garden basics and recommended plants; design tips for a gravel garden, and what it means to plant in a post-wild world.

I have a love-hate relationship with magnolia. I had Jim Wilson (Magnolia virginiana ‘Moonglow’) for more than 10 years and it bloomed twice. I eventually pulled it out. Aside from its sporadic flowers, I was concerned the plant would get too big for my small yard, where each plant has to earn its keep.

I love magnolia flowers, especially their exquisite, clean pinks, creams, whites and yellows. Then there’s the fragrance. Known as the queen of blooming trees, magnolias tend to run large, but they don’t have to be mature to start their bloom cycle, frequently sporting flowers when the trees are very small, said speaker Andrew Bunting, assistant director at the Chicago Botanic Garden and author of The Plant Lover’s Guide to Magnolias (2016, Timber Press, $24.95).

Rock gardens are the next big trend, perhaps because of concerns about drought conditions and perhaps because gardeners are looking for something different. If you want to grow hardy alpine or succulent plants in a hypertufa or concrete trough or other all-weather container, the bottom inch should be filled with organic matter, covered with 6 inches or more of a 50-50 mix of small, sharp gravel and sand, said speaker Joseph Tychonievich, author of Rock Gardening: Reimagining a Classic Style, (2016, Timber Press, $34.95).

‘Spring Symphony’ foamflower is an excellent plant for covering the ground. Photo courtesy TerraNovaNurseries.com

One way to get a feel for plant forms is to look at black and white versions of your garden photos, said speaker Lisa Roper, the horticulturist responsible for the Gravel Garden and Ruin at Chanticleer, a public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania. You’ll easily see how many rounded, pyramid or straight plants you have, as well as textures and where blank spaces are, she said. This technique works for any kind of garden.

Two things I learned from speaker Claudia West: That HTH is a disease that afflicts many gardeners, and that plants are programmed to cover soil. Plants, such as wild ginger (Asarum canadensis) or foamflower (Tiarella spp.), can do the job of hardwood mulch to control weeds, said West, ecological sales manager at North Creek Nurseries in Pennsylvania. Her award-winning book, Planting in a Post-Wild World, (2015, Timber Press, $39.95) co-authored with Thomas Ranier, offers an ecological philosophy as a guide to plant selection and more.

The disease? HTH, as in Have to Have that plant, West said, and the audience burst into knowing laughter.

What to do for the February blahs

Beautiful tulips bouquet on wooden table. (C) Maglara/123rf.com

Even though it’s short, February is blah-est winter month. It’s best function is as the bridge between winter and spring, and about this time of year, we’re all ready for spring.

First up, Ground Hog Day, and this year, the prediction is six more weeks of winter. Whatever you say, Phil.

Next, Valentine’s Day, where we can indulge our love of flowers and share them with the people we love. There’s nothing like a fresh bouquet of tulips to give a glimpse of what we’ll see in our gardens in a few more weeks. Remember to keep the vase of flowers out of direct sun and away from heat. The cooler the spot, the longer the bouquet will last.

Do your rose stems bend causing the flowers to droop? Make a fresh cut and submerge the hole stem – leaves and flowers – in warm water for 20 to 60 minutes until the stems straighten, said Melinda Myers, horticulturist, garden writer, author and tv and radio personality.

Then make another cut with the stem under water, if possible, and rearrange the flowers in a clean vase with fresh water, she said.

‘Jelena’ witch hazel at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Photo courtesy Irvin Etienne/IMA

Anytime this month or next, take a stroll at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and smell the witch hazels. Most of them are inside the verdant perimeter and admission is required to see and smell the witch hazel in the Garden for Everyone and elsewhere. In the free access area, ‘Jelena’ witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) can be enjoyed near the parking lot at the Michigan Road entrance.

The 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 17-20, is a wonderful family activity. The first year, participants submitted about 13,500 checklists from the U.S. and Canada. Last year, about 163,760 birdwatchers in more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 checklists, reporting 5,689 species. It sounds more complicated than it is. Select a spot and count the number and types of birds you see there for 15 minutes on one or more days. The website has details and forms to use. (Don’t you love the logo above? Art by Charley Harper.)

Sign up for the Spring Garden Clinic, Saturday, March 4 at St. Luke United Methodist Church, 100 W. 86th St. Coordinated by Purdue Extension-Marion County. The fee is $40 and includes handouts, lunch and snacks.

Topics are: 10 Landscape Pest in 2016; Ecological Pest Management for the Vegetable Garden; Growing and Using Culinary Herbs; Growing and Loving Daylilies; Planning and Planting Your Vegetable Garden; New Plant Sampler; What Not to Plant; Don’t be a Buzz Kill: How to Protect Pollinators in Your Garden; Providing Habitat for Wildlife Around Your Home; What’s New in Home Food Preservation; Vegetable Garden Pests, and Creating the Structured Native Home Landscape. Registration is required.

 

Tropical plants decorate our world, indoors and out

 

LiveTrends’ air plant vase adorns the neck of Phyllis Gricus, a landscape designer and garden writer from Pittsburgh at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition held recently in Florida. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Wearable plants? Tiny plants in tiny pots? Braided plants? Orchids of many colors?

Those are my eye-catching takeaways from my first trip to the Tropical Plant Industry Exposition in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Produced by the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscapers Association, the annual trade show exhibits all the latest and greatest of tropicals, or what Hoosiers call houseplants.

In a big way, houseplants have escaped their indoor environment to serve as ornamental beauties in trendy summer gardens. And, they’ve leapt from pots into glass bubbles, whimsical vessels or architectural structures. They’re almost super plants.

Greenex’s Queen series Kalenchoes make a stunning display at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition held recently in Florida. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The trend is plants that can survive for six weeks with zero care, said exhibitor Bisser Georgiev, founder of LiveTrends Designs (livetrendsdesign.com). The goal is to position plants as unique living décor.

His company has placed a tiny air plant (Tillandsia) in a small vase, strung with a leather cord to make a necklace, was popular with trade show visitors. So were the dolls with tillandsia hair, also a keeper, and that’s exactly what LiveTrends wants – consumers to collect the décor for their homes.

Almost all exhibitors featured tiny plants in tiny pots. Sometimes they were clustered together in a saucer or bowl, and sometimes they were placed in a row along a shelf or something similar.

Seen at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition held recently in Florida, the leaves of Sansevieria cylindrica are braided into an architecturally interesting table decoration. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Braided leaves of Sansevieria cylindrica provide a unique, architectural feature to a centerpiece arrangement or end table. The leaves are cut from the plant, treated with a fungicide and braided into a tight, upright, yet broad pattern and placed in a pot. The living sculpture, exhibited by Greenex.com, lasts several weeks.

Gardeners longing for something other than impatiens to color their shady landscape can take heart by planting several blooming bromeliads in a container. The colors should last the summer and with it comes the sturdy bromeliad texture.

Orchids, which bloom anywhere from four weeks to three months, depending on the variety, also can be clustered in large bowls for a stunning display in shadier areas. Or line a shelf or shady window box with them.

For outdoor living spaces, consider building a backless box to affix to a wall. Set plants in pretty pots in the box to color up the space.

To wrap up, use tropicals (aka houseplants) as you might premium annuals or tender perennials for summer fare. Tropicals add texture, shades of green, silver, red and other colors, and when they’ve completed their summer tour, they can be brought indoors for even more enjoyment. Or, thank them for their seasonal show and toss the plants in the compost pile.

Exhibitors at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition, held recently in Florida, displayed several bromeliads in large pots, the perfect colorful plant for shadier spots in the landscape. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

February garden checklist

Indoors

  • Keep houseplants close to bright windows. Check soil for dryness before watering.
  • Examine produce, tender flower bulbs and roots stored for the winter for rot, shriveling or excess moisture. Remove and discard damaged material.
  • Sketch garden plans, including what to grow, spacing, arrangement and number of plants needed.
  • Order seeds and plants as early as possible for best selection.
  • Renees Garden SeedTest left over garden seed for germination. Place 10 seeds between moist paper toweling, or cover with a thin layer of soil. Keep seeds warm and moist. If fewer than six seeds germinate, buy fresh seed.
  • Wash pots and trays that will be used for seed sowing and transplants.
  • Start seeds for cool-season vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, five to seven weeks before transplanting outdoors.
  • Start seeds for impatiens, begonia, geranium and other slow growing annuals.

General Landscape

  • Prune landscape plants except early spring bloomers, which should be pruned within a month after the have finished blooming. Birches, maples, dogwoods and other heavy sap bleeders can be pruned in early summer.
  • Repair or build trellis for roses, grapes and other vining plants as needed.
  • Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs as they break ground.
  • Prepare lawn and garden equipment for the upcoming growing season. Sharpen blades and have equipment serviced before the spring rush.

Vegetables and Fruits

Plants you probably should be growing

 

For late winter and early spring beauty, consider ‘Golden Glory’ cornelian cherry. Photo courtesy Monrovia.com

For late winter and early spring beauty, consider ‘Golden Glory’ cornelian cherry. Photo courtesy Monrovia.com

Gardeners always have favorite plants, including those they think are not used often enough. Last week, we looked over the shoulders of Indiana gardeners at their favorite new plants. This week, we asked them about plants they thought should be planted more. Here’s what they had to say.

Bob Hill in Southern Indiana praises cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), an Asian member of the dogwood family. The hardy tree provides bursts of yellow flowers in late winter or early spring, has beautiful exfoliating bark year-round, and thick crops of red fruits in late summer and fall. “The best Cornus mas cultivars include the heavy-blooming ‘Golden Glory’, ‘Redstone’ and ‘Spring Grove’. If your yard is small, ‘Pyramidalis’, makes a nice fit in tight places,” said Hill, owner of Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica.

Fancy-leaf geraniums, such as ‘Glitterati Ice Queen’, are gaining in popularity for summer fare. Photo courtesy University of Georgia Trial Gardens

Fancy-leaf geraniums, such as ‘Glitterati Ice Queen’, are gaining in popularity for summer fare. Photo courtesy University of Georgia Trial Gardens

Fancy-leaf geraniums (Pelargonium), which are celebrating a resurgence in popularity, deserve a spot in a pot, said Jean Starr of Chesterton, who blogs at petaltalk-jean.com. “They have smaller flowers than what we think of when geranium is mentioned, but even when they’re not in bloom, their multi-colored leaves provide plenty of interest.” Among Starr’s favorites is ‘Glitterati Ice Queen’ from Hort Couture Plants, which can be mixed with other plants in a pot, grown in a hanging basket or window box.

A dwarf butterfly bush, such as ‘Glass Slippers’, works well in sunny spots in small yards. Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

A dwarf butterfly bush, such as ‘Glass Slippers’, works well in sunny spots in small yards. Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

Karen Kennedy, former president of Marion County Master Gardeners, says she’s become fond of the dwarf butterfly bushes (Buddleia), which in the 3-4 foot range, work well in her small garden. She especially likes Buzz Velvet, with vivid raspberry flowers, and ‘Glass Slippers’, the latter part of the Monarch series, with periwinkle blue flowers and silver foliage. “Both bloomed all the way to frost. A great edition to a sunny area of the garden,” she said.

Spring-planted Johnny jump-ups sometimes self-sow to reappear when temps cool in fall or the following spring. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

Spring-planted Johnny jump-ups sometimes self-sow to reappear when temps cool in fall or the following spring. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

“I think the most under-used plant is the little violas and pansies,” said Carol Michel of Indianapolis, who blogs at maydreamsgardens.com. Plant pansies and violas (Viola spp.) in early spring. “They will last until it gets hot, toward the end of May. They don’t mind an occasional frost, either,” she said. “The yellow-purple ones, generally referred to as Johnny jump-ups, are my favorites.”

The native copper iris offers an unusual color in the spring garden. © James Henderson, Golden Delight Honey, Bugwood.org

The native copper iris offers an unusual color in the spring garden. © James Henderson, Golden Delight Honey, Bugwood.org

Copper iris (Iris fulva), a late spring bloomer that is tough and beautiful, makes Irvin Etienne’s list of under-used perennials. “The flowers are an unusual shade of copper that I find highly attractive. Related to the native Louisiana iris, it is considered beardless and crestless. It tolerates wet conditions and clay, but mine is happy in good, normal garden soil,” said Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

 

Indiana gardeners name the best new plants in their gardens

‘Fierce Gigante’ elephant ear easily reaches 5 feet tall or more in a summer. Photo courtesy Irvin Etienne/PlantsNouveau.com

Pretty soon, new plants will beckon to us from newspapers and magazines, catalogs and the benches at garden centers: “Try me!” “Try me!”

To help guide our plant lust, I checked with some of my favorite gardeners throughout the state, asking what the best new or sort-of-new plant they’d grown. I also asked what plants they thought were under used or under appreciated by gardeners, and we’ll have that next week. For the new plants:

A big elephant ear from Plants Nouveau, ‘Fierce Gigante’ (Colocasia) easily reaches 5 feet tall when given ample moisture and rich, said Irvin Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and guru of all things tropical. “I thought the beautiful foliage would be its only asset, but the flowers turned out fabulous – big, creamy calla-like flowers on purple stems. My favorite new colocasia.”

‘Masterpiece’ is appreciated as much for its tasty tendrils as its pod and peas.
Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/ngb.org

Carol Michel, an avid vegetable gardener in Indianapolis who blogs at maydreamsgardens.com, picked ‘Masterpiece’ pea from Burpee. “It was easy to grow in a container and both the pods and the peas are edible, as are the tendrils. The tendrils are also frilly, and make a nice edition to flower arrangements.”

Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangea is a winner in an Indianapolis Master Gardener’s landscape. Photo courtesy ProvenWinners.com

Karen Kennedy, a former president of Marion County Master Gardeners, said she’s taken with several newish hydrangea introductions that have replaced a large Endless Summer (H. macrophylla ‘Bailmer’). Newly planted are ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ (H. serrata ‘Makd’), Bobo (H. paniculata ‘Ilvobo’) and Little Quick Fire (H. paniculata ‘Smhplqf’). “All three performed marvelously in their mostly sunny locations, with little to no care and bloomed all summer long. Unlike a lot of other hydrangeas they don’t faint in the heat and aren’t as demanding about water,” she said.

The long-blooming ‘Heatwave’ hyssop toughs it out through summer’s heat and humidity. Photo courtesy Monrovia.com

Jean Starr of Chesterton, who blogs at petaltalk-jean.com, says ‘Heatwave’ hyssop (Agastache) was unbeatable for its big flowers and long bloom time. “Even through the worst of the heat and humidity, ‘Heatwave’ kept pushing out its big purplish blooms on strong stems that could reach up to three feet in height. Rated to Zone 5 but resents wet feet in winter.”

‘Lemon Meringue’ adds long-blooming stalks of yellow flowers in the summer garden. Photo courtesy ProvenWinners.com

Down in Southern Indiana, Bob Hill raves about the native false indigos (Baptisia), especially those in the Decadence series, because of their durability, hardiness and tolerance. ‘Lemon Meringue’ only adds to all that with bright yellow flowers on 36-inch-tall stems and bluish-green leaves, followed by the showy seed heads in fall, said Hill, owner of Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica.

Effort under way to make butterfly weed Indiana’s official wildflower

 

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo courtesy PerennialResource.com

The Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society has launched an initiative to declare butterfly weed as the state’s official wildflower.

Society members plan to spend the 2017 session walking statehouse halls to promote a bill that elevates the status of the native perennial, a critical plant in the lifecycle of monarch butterflies.

The peony, an import from Asia, is the official state flower, and there are no plans to change that, said Davie Sue Wallace, vice president of INPAWS. Several states have state flowers and state wildflowers, including Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma and Florida.

INPAWS criteria for this selection: It needed to be garden worthy in performance and size; it needed to be found in the wild throughout Indiana; it needed to be a plant that retailers and wholesalers would be interested in; and it needed to be a plant of interest to children for educational purposes. Butterfly weed won by a long shot, said Wallace of Evansville, 10-year member of INPAWS.

She met with Republican Sens. Vaneta Becker and David Long the day before Thanksgiving to begin the process. Becker will likely craft the bill, Wallace said.

“It has been very challenging to do this during the holidays. But this just seems like the right year,” Wallace said.

To support Senate Bill 470, email or write Becker and Long and the representatives and senators from your area, Wallace said.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has become a very popular perennial the last several years, primarily because of its value as a food plant in the monarch butterfly’s lifecycle. A member of the milkweed family, butterflies slurp nectar from the bright orange flowers. Monarchs lay her eggs on milkweeds, which hatch and the larva eat the leaves before pupating and turning into butterflies. The Asclepias family is the only food plant for the caterpillars.

The loss of natural habitats of butterfly weed has prompted gardeners, municipalities, highway departments, parks and others to plant the perennial as a way to support monarchs, whose numbers have seen sharp decline over the last decade.

Coincidentally, butterfly weed is the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, so named by the Perennial Plant Association, a trade association of breeders, growers, horticulturists and educators.

Grow butterfly weed in full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, the plant, which gets about 2 feet tall and wide, is drought tolerant. The flowers and seed heads are great for bouquets. Deadhead the plant to reduce self-sowing.