Native Plants That Attract Butterflies

Texas gardener begins nursery and butterfly house to show off the state’s native plants.

| January/February 2012

  • Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly
    A Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly rests for a moment.
    Lori Dunn
  • Butterfly
    Beginning a plot with just one each of salvia, lantana and indigo spires will spread to approximately a 5-foot-square area, which will attract a lot of hummingbirds and butterflies.
    Greg Page

  • Great Spangled Fritillary Butterfly
  • Butterfly

A country prairie can seem like a stark abyss to first-time gardeners, but Regina McVey hopes to change this misconception. In just a few seasons she has cleverly turned her acreage into a haven for native plants that attract butterflies, and created McVey’s Native Nursery in Maryneal, Texas.

“Like most hardworking people, I did not have the time or money to amend the soil and buy plants for an area this size. So, I decided to utilize what grows naturally in our environment,” McVey says of her 1 1/2-acre rural plot.

The mother garden and her xeric plants

McVey rounded up the xeric, sun-worshipping perennial plants and flowers that thrive in the sandy loam of the West Texas prairie. She planted lantana, salvia, sage, mist flower and indigo spires on the site of a former horse corral behind her home. With these plantings, she created a backyard utopia bustling with nectar-sipping hummingbirds, alighting butterflies, and a variety of songbirds.

She believes that if gardeners use plants that are native to their areas, they will be encouraged by the rapid growth and low maintenance. She suggests the money saved by not replanting each year be spent on a water feature to further entice birds and butterflies to the garden.

“I began the other flower gardens from propagations out of my first flower bed,” she says.

McVey’s subsequent gardens include many hard-to-find perennials like Texas Bird of Paradise and Salvia greggii ‘Lipstick’. Each flower bed has a unique height and color combination.

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