Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Passion For Purple

Yep, I admit it. I'm passionate about purple.

So are pollinators, especially when Fall begins to softly, subtly tickle our senses in Florida. That would be right about now in my neck of the peninsula.

Just like males of many bird species -- and females of our own -- bright colors like reds, pinks, blues and purples are used to attract suitors. But plants aren't courting mates; they are enticing bees, wasps, butterflies and moths to come calling. The insects get food in the form of nectar and in return help the plants pollinate.

Purple and blue are especially popular with bees and wasps. But the butterflies and moths don't turn up their proboscis at them either!

Here are some of the purple bloomers my yard is "wearing" now. Please leave a comment and share your own fall favorites!

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Luscious clusters of purple berries grace this lovely but leggy native shrub from fall through the winter. Pruning keeps beautyberry looking spiffy rather sprawly. A shade lover, it is deciduous but in my Zone 9B landscape it never completely loses its leaves. Mockingbirds are among the birds that pluck the berries. Speaking of "pluck," I have a greedy mockingbird that has been guarding my beautyberry lately, and driving away others that want to share the bounty. 

Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha)

Salvias are great pollinator plants, and this one is no exception. Growing to 4 feet high and equally wide, it needs space to look its best. The violet blooms are borne on long erect stems, and they feel like velvet! Mexican sage thrives in blazing sun and heat, and will return in the spring after a frosty winter. This sage makes a great cutting flower for vase arrangements, especially when paired with a yellow companion like sunflowers or rosinweed.


Purple porterweed (Stachytarpheta urticifolia

A long-tailed skipper on porterweed
Porterweed needs room to grow
The porterweed pictured here is not the native species, S. jamaicensis. The native is a low-growing groundcover; the upright version is a woody shrub that can reach 5 feet in height. I have both in my yard, but the upright porterweed is more heavily visited (perhaps because it's tall and easier to see). Bees, zebra longwings and especially skippers sip nectar from the tiny purple blooms all day long. I can look out my window at virtually any time and see pollinators on this plant!

Purple Majesty Salvia (Salvia guarantica x gesneraeflora)

This hybrid salvia has rich purple blooms on long spikes, like all salvias. I've read that hummingbirds like this plant, but in my yard the bees and butterflies use it extensively. It can grow to be 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, so give it some space and you'll be rewarded. This another plant that the little skipper butterflies adore.

Blue Curls (Trichostema dichotomum)

Late sleepers are out of luck with this native wildflower. The flowers open only in the morning and then wither by late day, with new blooms appearing the next morning. This plant dies back in colder areas of Florida during the winter, and frankly isn't much of a looker except when it blooms in the early fall. I find its delicate, curly blossoms irresistible. It will reseed prolifically -- no exaggeration -- but I just pull up most of the babies and share the curly-cuteness with others.
Curly cuteness at work!

Happy Fall Floridays everyone!


  1. I love your blue adorable! The pretty purple color of Mexican Bush Sage is so deep and's my favorite purple in the garden. I often see hummers visiting mine in the evening.

  2. I keep hoping I will attract hummers, Susan. I know they're close by but I have yet to see one in my yard. Did not know they like Mexican sage. Good info!

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  4. I,too,love the Blue Curls.I have an abundance of hummers in my yard,just because I have an abundance of Tropical Sage.

    1. Lucky you, Chris! I just heard from a nearby neighbor that she has hummers in her yard now, so I am hopeful they will find their way to me. I have tropical sage as well, but it doesn't seem to be very appealing to the bees or butterflies in my yard, with only very occasional usage. Maybe they are just saving it for the hummers! Thanks for commenting; your observations are always appreciated.

  5. And a footnote about the greedy mockingbird. He is STILL guarding the beautyberry. Drove off another mocker and two blue jays yesterday, before feasting on the berries. What a cheeky fellow!

  6. Do you have a butterfly garden? My friend does and I love them so much. Maybe when I have the money I'll do that as well.

    William | Landscaping Auburn, AL