Tiny and chipper, chickadees are among the first backyard birds that many recognize. But a few things set the Carolina chickadee apart from other types of chickadees. Find out how to identify and attract these small songbirds.

Carolina Chickadee Range

Carolina chickadee
To determine which chickadee you are seeing, consult the species range maps.

Carolina chickadees are found year-round in the southeastern United States, as far north as Pennsylvania and all the way west to mid-Texas. Their range overlaps a bit with the more northern (and slightly larger) black-capped chickadee in a very narrow zone that stretches from New Jersey to Kansas.

“I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, from New York and was looking forward to new backyard birds that were not previously regulars to me. Chickadees are so friendly and outgoing, yet common; so I practically dismissed them for a few days. Then suddenly it dawned on me. Though they look practically identical these are Carolina chickadees—not the black-capped chickadee I knew from the Northeast!” says Birds & Blooms reader Christine McCluskey.

Don’t miss this collection of incredibly cute chickadee photos.

Carolina Chickadee Identification

Carolina chickadee in maple tree
Carolina chickadees nest in tree cavities and birdhouses.

Telling the two species apart in the overlapping areas of their range can be tricky. Both of these small songbirds have the same black caps and bibs, but Carolina chickadees have duller white coloring on the cheek patch and a bit less white on their tail and wing feathers.

Learn how to identify mountain chickadees.

Carolina Chickadee Song

“The easiest way to tell them apart is by sound,” says Robyn Bailey, NestWatch Project Leader with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “The Carolina chickadee’s song is four to six notes, and it has a broader song repertoire than the black-capped’s simple fee-bee song.”

Listen for their familiar, distinctive chick-a-dee-dee call.

Learn what a Carolina wren call sounds like.

What Does a Carolina Chickadee Eat?

black and white birds, Carolina chickadee in a tree
Carolina chickadees eat seeds, berries and insects. In winter, half of their diet is plant-based.

Insects and spiders make up about 90% of a Carolina’s diet during the warmer months. The birds also enjoy berries and happily visit feeders for suet, peanut chips and sunflower seeds.

Those bug-eating tendencies mean that backyard birders should take extra precautions to help attract and protect them. “This includes not spraying pesticides in our gardens and lawns, and planting native fruit-producing shrubs like blackberry and Virginia creeper,” Robyn says.

Though Carolina chickadees are common, recent research indicates their numbers are falling. “It’s an important reminder that even common backyard species can decline if we’re not careful,” Robyn warns. Help support them and other birds by regularly cleaning feeders and birdbaths, adding predator guards to nest boxes, and keeping cats indoors. Responsible birders can help keep these little fliers happy and healthy long into the future.

Nuthatch vs chickadee: Here’s how to tell the difference.

Carolina Chickadee Nest and Eggs

Mating pairs will often stay together for several years at a time, seeking out cavities in trees. Females build nests of moss, bark and animal fur, then lay about six jelly bean-sized eggs in a single clutch.

These birds also use nest boxes with entrance holes that measure 1 inches in diameter. Robyn recommends visiting NestWatch’s website for free birdhouse plans, placement tips and more.

Females fiercely protect their nests: If a predator tries to disturb it, they can give off an almost snakelike hiss to scare it off.


There is nothing that captures the heart more than a plant with a long history behind it. The Lenten rose or hellebore is one of those plants. During the season of Lent, take some time to check out this wonderful group of plants and find one for your garden.

Lenten Rose Care and Growing Tips

Lenten Rose
Lenten rose in bloom beneath a Quince tree

Helleborus orientalis or H. × hybridus, Zones 4 to 9

  • Attracts: Bees
  • Light needs: Part to full shade
  • Size: Plants reach up to 1 1/2 feet tall and wide
  • Grown for: Cold season interest and early color
  • Foliage: Glossy dark leaves
  • Cultivars to try: Choose one of the many hybrids, such as Onyx Odyssey with purple, almost black, double flowers, or Phoebe with lovely pink spotted blooms

Hellebores are among the earliest perennial bloomers. Cup-shaped flowers sprout from robust evergreen foliage in moderate winter climates, and range from white or pink to rosy purple, and anywhere between. The long bloom period begins in February, March or April, and flowers tolerate late-season snow well.

This sweet, simple-care favorite is perfect for shadier spaces in your garden. Hellebore enjoys bright shade, like on the edge of a woodland, but can also be grown in the garden on the east side of a house where it is protected from hot afternoon sun.

These perennials enjoy a woodland type soil, though being tough plants, they will do fine in average garden soil with some added compost and good drainage.

Hellebore is poisonous, so deer are not going to graze on it. However, it’s a good idea to wear gloves if your skin is sensitive as it can cause some dermatitis.

Check out more early blooming spring flowers for your garden.

Pollinator Benefits

These wonders bloom as early as late winter and provide several months of food for spring bees, hoverflies and other pollinators.

Check out the top 10 early spring flowering bushes.

History of Lenten Rose

Hellebore early spring flowers
Penny’s Pink hellebore

This plant is not actually a rose at all, but is part of the Runuculacea family of plants. The recorded history of hellebore dates back centuries when it was used in witchcraft and medicinally and later when it became known by the common name “Lenten rose” because of its habit of blooming during the season of Lent. This helped make them a favorite in Victorian gardens over 100 years ago.

Another interesting bit is that some historians think it was actually the poison of hellebore that killed Alexander the Great.

Check out these fascinating primrose flower facts.

When Does Lenten Rose Bloom?

Dark and Handsome hellebore
Dark and Handsome hellebore

Lenten rose is a hardy perennial with evergreen leaves and long lasting blossoms. It can begin to bloom in late January or February in the more temperate zones or about March or April in colder zones. The blooms last a couple of months, a rare thing in any garden plant to be sure.

The blooms also make good cut flowers. They are best displayed by floating them in a dish of water in the center of the table or even in the bird bath. If you want to cut them be sure you chose blooms that have been open a while and feel leathery so they last well after they are cut.

Cutting Back Lenten Rose

Once established, this perennial is drought tolerant. The only grooming needed is to clip off last season’s leaves in early January. It’s important to clip the old leaves before the blooms begin to emerge so you don’t accidentally snip those off in the process.

Old leaves sometimes get a bit of spotting from blight in areas with more rainfall. Remove and dispose of these portions.

Grow winter daphne shrubs for early, fragrant blooms.

Growing Lenten Rose From Seed

lenten rose
Hellebore seedlings produce diverse colors

These plants produce a lot of seed, though they are not weedy. Over time, hellebore will colonize an area. The seeds are a good size and black when ripe making them easy to collect.

The beauty of them producing seed like they do is that you can grow more plants for your garden or share them with friends. They are not an inexpensive plant at the nursery so its great way to save money, too. The diversity of bloom color is one of the best reasons for growing out some of the seeds.

If you want to start some plants from seed you can just scatter the seed in an area you want it to grow in and let nature take its course. It’s really that easy!

How to Divide Hellebores

Hellebores form a nice clump and are easily divided to make more plants. The rule of thumb is that this should be done by April or wait until fall. Be sure you dig deeply and stay out away from the edges of the leaves a bit so you get as much of the root ball as possible.

Next, check out our favorite winter interest plants to add color and beauty to your yard.

Even experienced gardeners are sometimes afraid to try growing orchids. They seem too exotic, too complicated, as if they require greenhouses and constant care. In reality, though, many types of orchids are perfect for the beginning houseplant grower, and phalaenopsis (say “fay-lay-NOP-sis”) is a great example. Here are the basics to get you started.

Love orchids? Check out our complete guide to orchid care.

All About Phalaenopsis Orchids

Growing Orchids Phalaenopsis
Phalaenopsis is also known as a moth orchid.

Phalaenopsis is a group of about 60 orchids that are native to Southeast Asia, where they grow in the canopies of humid lowland forests, protected from the direct sun. They are epiphytes (air plants) and don’t need soil to grow. Instead, they’re often found in the crooks of trees or even growing from rocks. They have a single flowering stalk per plant, with multiple large blooms that can last weeks or even months.

This species has been extensively hybridized, giving those ready to start growing orchids a huge variety of flower colors and patterns to choose from. The classic white phalaenopsis may have inspired the genus name, which means “moth-like”. Phalaeonopsis are sometimes called moth orchids.

Other popular varieties of orchids include cattleya and dendrobium.

Temperature Needs

moth Orchid
These beautiful orchids make excellent houseplants.

Phalaenopsis orchids enjoy the same temperatures as most people, making them ideal houseplants. They prefer days in the 70s and nights in the low 60s. In warmer temperatures, they need more humidity.

Exposure to cool nighttime temps (55 degrees F) or so for a short period of time may help plants that seem reluctant to flower.

Check out the top 10 blooming houseplants to grow indoors.

Light Needs

Orchids for sale in garden center
Phalaenopsis orchids are easier to grow than you think.

Filtered bright light is best for growing orchids like phalaenopsis, since it mimics their native habitat. These low-maintenance beauties thrive in any light except direct sun, which can cause damage. Try an east-facing window, or a south or west window covered with a sheer curtain.

A healthy phalaenopsis has olive green leaves. Red on the edges of the leaves means it’s getting too much light.

Water Needs

Growing Orchids Phalaenopsis
Take care not to overwater your phalaeonopsis orchids.

In general, a phalaenopsis needs to be watered about once a week. Some sites suggest using only rainwater, but tap water is most likely fine as long as you don’t have a water softener installed. You can provide extra humidity by filling a shallow dish with pebbles and water and setting the plant pot on top.

Never let the roots stand in water, as they will rot. Also, don’t allow water to sit in the crown (where the leaves meet the stem), or you may experience crown rot.

Potting Mix and Fertilizer

Growing Orchids Phalaenopsis
These plants dislike wet soggy soil and direct sunlight.

Epiphytes like orchids need quick-draining potting material. Specially-designed orchid mixes made of bark, sphagnum moss, and other loose fillers are ideal. Do not use traditional potting soil or soil from your garden. Ensure the pot has holes for good drainage.

Feed using any balanced fertilizer at 25 percent of the recommended strength. The American Orchid Society recommends feeding weekly in warm humid conditions, and twice a month in cooler environments.

Learn how to repot orchids and other indoor plants.

Maintenance and Pruning

When phalaenopsis flowers finally fade, cut back the flower stalk just above the node where the first flower was. A new stalk will grow from that point, with flowers appearing in a couple of months. If the stalk itself turns brown and dies, cut it back close to the base and a new stalk will appear in time.

Yellowing leaves on the bottom of the plant are reaching the end of their natural life cycle, and can be removed.

Next, learn how to grow oncidium, or Dancing Lady orchids.


  • University of Maryland Extension
  • The American Orchid Society
  • Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Why Is My Lilac Bush Not Blooming?

Shutterstock 194180936
Blossoming lilac flowers

“I was given a small lilac bush years ago from a friend’s garden. Every spring I’m so disappointed to see no flowers. How can I get it to bloom?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Georgette Jahn of Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania.

Horticultural expert Melinda Myers: Shade and improper pruning can prevent lilacs from flowering. Make sure your plant receives at least six hours of sunlight. If not, consider moving it to a sunnier location. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer because it can prevent flowering. Only prune lilacs right after their normal bloom period in early summer if you want flowers the following spring. Pruning at other times eliminates the flower buds and your spring bloom.

Why We Love Lilacs: So long-lived that it often survives even after a house is long gone, a lilac bush needs no coddling beyond regular watering its first year.

If you live in the Deep South, try growing lilac vine.

Do Lilacs Need Full Sun?

“When and where should I plant lilac bushes? Do they need full sun?” asks reader Elizabeth Williams of Portland, Oregon.

Melinda: Lilacs flower best in full sun with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Plant your lilac in an area with moist, well-draining soil. They prefer neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Portland soils tend to be somewhat acidic, so it’s best to have your soil tested before adding lime to adjust the soil pH to make it neutral to slightly alkaline.

Does a hydrangea need full sun or shade to grow best?

Do Lilacs Like Acidic Soil?

Bloomerang Purple Syringa 8801 lilac bush not blooming
Bloomerang Purple reblooming lilac bush

“My lilac bushes have never bloomed. They get some direct sun, but some shade. The soil is acidic because of pine and oak trees. Is this the problem?” asks reader Joanne Eastman of Lovell, Maine.

Melinda Myers: Evergreen needles and oak leaves have little to no impact on soil acidity. Plus, acidic soil would cause leaf discoloration and stunted growth, not merely a lack of flowers.

The shade from these trees may be the culprit. Lilacs flower best with at least six hours of direct sunlight. Too much high-nitrogen fertilizer and improper pruning can also result in a lack of flowers. Go easy on the fertilizing, and prune only if needed right after the lilacs should have bloomed. These plants develop their flower buds in the summer, and the buds then open the following spring.

Backyard Tip: Do you really love lilacs, but wish they bloomed longer? Check out the new reblooming lilac options out there, like Bloomerang Purple from Proven Winners. New Age White Lilac is another fresh update on the classic shrub.


Melinda Myers

Proven Winners

Succulent Plant

For both style and substance, drought tolerant succulents are tops on today’s horticultural hit parade. Their striking appearance and incredible variety appeal to every aesthetic. From cactus spines to undulating crests, succulents offer endless diversity in shape and form. Plant flowers, and you could spend months waiting for them to burst into beautiful bloom. Plant a succulent, and the beauty is already there.

From front yards to rooftops, wedding bouquets to living jewelry, succulents have become superstars both in and out of the garden. Here are some of our favorites that live up to their drought tolerant, beautiful reputation.

Check out the top 10 flashy flowering succulents to grow.

7 Drought Tolerant Succulents for Beginners

A good rule for the new succulent gardener is—if it’s easy to find, it’s easy to grow. However, the more popular succulents become, the more varieties are widely available for sale. So if you are looking for proven performers that will give you success, look no further than these drought tolerant succulents.

Hens and Chicks

Hardy in cold climates, these rough-and-ready rosettes are among the few succulents that embrace frost conditions, surviving down to a chilly Zone 3. The rich violet plum of Purple Mojo is an instant favorite!

Grow a flock of hens and chicks plants.


Succulent Plant Echeveria

Its leaves splay open like lotus petals, giving you a gorgeous flower all year round. Morning Light, in a gorgeous, hazy-blue hue, is an easy-to-grow cultivar for beginners.


Super easy-grow plants with leaves that form big beautiful flower-like heads. Try the dark, rich cultivar Zwartkop.


Many agaves are large, expensive and aggressive. Overcome these obstacles by cultivating a compact variety of these spiky mounds in a container. The jade and cream variegated victoriae-reginae White Rhino agave is a stunner.


A snake plant sitting on a white table.
Snake plant

Likely you’ve heard of the snake plant, famous for being a hard-to-kill houseplant. This most common variety sends thick, variegated leaf blades a foot into the air. For a spin, try the swirling cultivar, Twist.


Jade plants, or Crassula ovata, are the most commonly sold of this pudgy plant group. If you prefer the look of little trees, try the fiery Crassula capitella ‘Campfire.’

Discover succulents that will attract pollinators.


seed bearing plants, easy perennials, autumn joy sedum
Autumn joy sedum

From ground covers to plants reaching 18 inches tall, this genus offers a wide selection, with many cultivars able to tolerate the cold. Elizabeth, for example, is hardy from Zones 3 to 8, and its long-blooming red flowers give way to red foliage in fall.

Check out the top 10 stonecrop sedum varieties to grow.

Succulent Watering Needs

Drought Tolerant Succulents
Succulents are great in mini terrariums.

Because they’re born in harsh environments, you’d be hard-pressed to find hardier water wise plants. Succulents’ leaves and stems are built to store water from infrequent bursts of rainfall that quickly trickle through dry soil. On top of that, their leaves have a thick, often waxy surface with the ability to close its pores rather than lose water through respiration. Together, these adaptations minimize water loss drastically.

For you, that means your drought tolerant succulents can go without a drink while you’re on vacation, and it won’t faze them one bit. And while your other plants wither during summer droughts, it’s your succulents’ time to shine. All this means less time maintaining your succulents, with much more time to relax and enjoy.

Learn how to grow a succulent container garden.

The Best Soil for Succulents

Wild succulents grow in well-draining soil, often on slopes or in rocky crevices, where the tilt assists with draining. Test your landscape location by spading out about a gallon-size hole and pouring in the same amount of water. Standing water after a few minutes means you’ll need to amend the soil with porous material or, better yet, plant in a container. Select a container deep enough to ensure that your succulent’s roots are never waterlogged, which leads to root rot.

Even specialists debate the precise recipe for the perfect succulent soil mix. Some say any commercial mix made for succulents and cacti is fine, while others warn that these mixes have a bit too much organic matter. Many recommend adding porous material in varying amounts. Perlite, pumice, sand, pea gravel, granite or grit: whether or not to add these and in what amount varies by grower.

As long as you don’t use unamended regular potting soil, you’ll probably be fine. Look around at what other people growing the same cultivars are using, and keep in mind that, while many folks use slightly different soil mixes, they all have happy, healthy succulents.

Designing With Drought Tolerant Succulents

Green roof
Succulents growing on a green roof

Have you seen the amazing things people do with drought tolerant succulents? From gorgeous ground covers to dramatic single plants, succulents are the hot—and smart—answer to water, soil and space conservation.

Planting a succulent rooftop is a stunning and energy-efficient way to double your garden space. The vertical gardening concept has grown from small, charming picture frames to sprawling, museum-quality murals. From spelling out names and initials to covering three-dimensional topiary forms, succulents can say it all.

Succulents in a teacup
Succulents will grow in almost any container, even a teacup.

The same root structures that enable succulents to crop up on rocky hillsides make them adaptable to pretty much any container, no matter how offbeat. You can plant them in seashells, toy trucks, high heels, coffee pots, and more. Terrariums make a perfect habitat for some succulents, provided you let them drain and dry thoroughly after watering.

Check out 10 seriously cool succulents that make great houseplants.

Smell that? The fragrance of fresh herbs is absolutely divine. Snippets of fresh basil are mingling with pasta sauce. If you crave seductive scents like this all year long, growing fresh herbs will do the trick. Whether you’re tilling a full vegetable garden out back or tending a few small containers in your windowsill kitchen garden, you’ll find success by picking the best herbs to grow for cooking.

For growing tips, check out Andrea Bellamy’s book Sugar Snaps and Strawberries. You’ve likely tried to grow basil and oregano, but this book will inspire you to branch out. That will mean even more flavorful meals from the kitchen.

These top 10 herbs to grow for cooking are not only wonderful to sniff and taste, they’ll save you time and money when you plan menus. Best of all, many can be dried for use all year long. Look for them from our friends at Bonnie Plants. With so many herb varieties to choose from, you’ll find just the right ones to add tempting aromas to your kitchen.

apple mint, herbs for cooking

Apple Mint

Helianthus annuus, Zones 5 to 9

One of the easiest herbs to grow, apple mint is a natural for containers or other small spaces. While you’ll enjoy the mint flavor, the unexpected fruity tones are delightful, too. Be sure to keep up with the wandering ways of this herb and pick leaves frequently. With container plants, tucking stray mint back into the pot will help control growth.

Tastes great in: Two things to try: Add crushed leaves to ice water for a refreshing summer drink, or steep in hot water for tea.

chives best herbs to grow


Allium spp. , Zones 3 to 9

Versatile chives impart a subtle oniony flavor to food. Deadhead or grow in containers to keep these plants in check. With their mauve flowers, chives are pretty as edging plants for beds and filler plants for containers. Harvest from spring through fall. Learn how to grow, harvest and use chives.

Tastes great in: Try adding chives to all kinds of vegetables; just sauté in oil along with some garlic for a tasty side dish. Or impress your guests by adding chive flowers to a salad.

Love garlic? Grow your own!

best herbs to grow, basil


Ocimum spp., annual

The spicy-sweet flavor and aroma of basil have made it one of the top herbs to grow. Harvest often. Pinch off the tips of the stems to a fresh set of leaves. Make sure you do this regularly for best growth. A favorite in Asian and Italian cooking, basil grows marvelously in containers. Basil seeds can begin indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. At the end of the season, freeze or dry what’s left. Discover mistakes you may be making with fresh basil.

Tastes great in: While basil is delicious in almost any Italian dish, don’t be afraid to take another approach. For a simple vinaigrette or marinade, heat white wine vinegar and pour over fresh basil. After 24 hours, strain and discard leaves.


Rosmarinus officinalis, Zones 8 to 11

Rosemary is a Mediterranean herb that needs full sun and well-drained soil. It’s hard to replicate these conditions indoors but I’ve had success by supplementing with a grow light. I don’t overwater, but I do mist daily (keep a decorative hand sprayer on the windowsill as a reminder). For container planting, use pots at least 8 inches deep. In cool climates, overwinter rosemary indoors, but keep an eye out for powdery mildew. If you’re looking for an edible yet substantial shrub, rosemary will fit your yard beautifully. In milder regions, you can even trim it as hedge.

Tastes great in: Add rosemary to any poultry dish and you’ll have a crowd-pleaser. Use the edible flowers in salads, herb butters and cream cheese spreads.


Origanum spp., Zones 5 to 10

Oregano is a sun lover and offers the best harvest when given plenty of light. In spring and summer, a bright south-facing window should provide enough light. In autumn and winter, add a grow light. Though it’s similar to marjoram, frost-tolerant oregano is a safer choice for cold climates. Drying oregano increases its flavor. Simply cut whole stems, hang them in a cool, dry place, and voilà—a lovely herb to sprinkle on pizza and much more any time.

Check out 10 perennial vegetables that grow back each year.

Tastes great in: Skip the Mediterranean restaurant tonight and make a savory omelet or frittata instead. Adding fresh oregano will provide just the right touch to inspire you to eat at home more often.

dill best herbs to grow


Anethum graveolens, annual

While dill grows well in the garden alongside tomatoes, sweet peppers or chilies, it needs space to flourish. Since it’s easy to grow in full sun, I’ll try planting my own this time around. I’ve been warned it likes to seed itself, so keep that in mind. Dill is also a top butterfly host plant.

Tastes great in: Calling all pickle fans! Summer is the perfect time to make your own fresh, delicious dills. When it’s warm out, I could polish off a jar of these crunchy treats pretty quickly all by myself.



Coriandrum sativum, annual

You may know this popular plant as coriander, a name it shares with the sweet spice made by drying the seeds. Cilantro plants, with their aromatic dark-green leaves, do well in both gardens and containers. The tiny white flowers attract beneficial insects, so try spreading these plants throughout your garden.

Tastes great in: Cilantro leaves are a must in Mexican cooking and many Asian cuisines. Try fiesta grilled corn or cilantro potatoes for dinner tonight. Sounds good to me!



Thymus spp., Zones 5 to 9

It’s also very easy to grow thyme on a south- or east-facing windowsill. Adorned with pretty purple, pink or white flowers, this silvery herb likes containers at least 6 inches deep. Avoid overwatering and be sure to pinch back the tips to encourage bushy growth, or simply snip entire stems at soil level. As long as you avoid overwatering, thyme will thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. For a flavor twist, plant a pot of lemon thyme.

Tastes great in: The tiny leaves of thyme add big flavor to soups, stews and marinades. Thyme is superb with sweet corn; try adding snippets to the butter before slathering it on a freshly grilled ear. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Learn how to grow a pizza garden in your backyard.



Petroselinum crispum, annual

Let’s first distinguish between two popular parsley varieties. If cooking is your calling, flat-leafed Italian parsley has your name on it; it’s delicious in dozens of dishes. Looking for an attractive container plant or plate garnish? Curly-leafed parsley is the way to go. Both varieties are relatively easy to grow. Parsley is a great choice for a sunny windowsill where no supplemental lighting is available, as it can produce a good harvest in less light.

Tastes great in: Grab your calendar and make note of summer cookouts and tailgating parties. When a potato or veggie salad is your dish to pass, you’ll be grateful for the fresh green sprigs and leaves from your parsley plant. Parsley adds bright flavor to pastas, soups and salads. Watch for swallowtail caterpillars, too.


Salvia officinalis, Zones 5 to 9

Here’s a champion herb to grow if you ever saw one, a species that works equally well in borders, beds and containers. The gray-green, chartreuse or dusky-purple foliage is an eye-catching accent to any planting. After four years, the plant becomes woody and may need to be replaced. It’s easy: Just take a cutting and start a new plant.

Tastes great in: While many of us add sage to turkey or chicken stuffing around the holidays, it’s also an enchanting addition to couscous, quinoa and other grains.

Grow Pineapple sage for cool-season pollinators.


  • Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy
  • Bonnie Plants

Grow Host Plants to Attract Butterflies

Bnbbyc17 Danna Miner 1
Purple passionflower is a host plant for gulf fritillary and zebra longwing butterflies 

We just can’t stress enough how important it is to have host plants in your garden plan to attract and help butterflies. Milkweed is important for monarchs, but don’t stop there.

Check out our top 10 butterfly host plants.

Add Native Plants

309513926 1 Terry Brunholtz Bnb Pc 2022
Variegated fritillary on ironweed

Native plants are naturally better for birds, bees and butterflies. If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, look up a good native plant source in your area. Then ask them what they recommend.

How does a butterfly survive winter?

Eliminate Pesticides

The coloration on a Gulf fritillary caterpillar is similar to the adult's.
Gulf fritillary caterpillar

A caterpillar isn’t going to make it to the butterfly stage if you’re using pesticides in your yard. While it’s tempting to have weed-free, green lawns, to help butterflies it’s best to say no to yard chemicals.

Transform your yard into a butterfly migration hotspot.

Pick Flowering Plants with Long Blooming Time

common buckeye, flowers with seed pods
Common buckeye butterfly on purple coneflower

Butterflies are active as early as February and as late as November in many areas. (Of course, if you live in a warmer climate, you get an even longer butterfly season.) To help butterflies, offer plants with early and late season bloom times, so they always have something to eat. You can’t go wrong with this logic. It works great for attracting beneficial bees, too!

Here’s 16 long-blooming flowers for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Watch the Butterflies That You Attract

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Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on lilac bush

One of the best ways to discover which plants butterflies like is to watch them! Butterfly watching is best done in the heat of the day. You can learn a lot by observing the plants they visit most. If you don’t have a lot of butterfly activity in your own yard, go to a local park or botanical garden.

Check out the best monarch butterfly flowers you should grow

Secrets to Growing Milkweed for Butterflies

254008011 1 Jennifer Quam Bnb Bypc2020
Monarch on a butterfly weed plant
  1. More milkweed is better to attract monarch butterflies. Milkweed can be surprisingly hard to get started, so overseed to increase your chance of success.
  2. If you can’t get milkweed seeds started, buy plants. Native gardening groups can point you in the right direction for suppliers.
  3. Look for variety. With more than 100 species of milkweed, what works for some might not work for others. Don’t be afraid to try a few.

1. Fir Tree Needles Are Softer

Cardinal In Fraser Fir
Male northern cardinal

Fir and spruce needles are attached to twigs one by one, while pines grow needles in bunches. Fir tree needles are soft and flat, while spruce needles are stiff and angular.

Check out the best types of evergreen trees to grow.

2. Fraser Firs Are Long Lasting

Christmas Tree Fraser Fir Isolated On White
Fraser fir

Lasting seven weeks or more, Fraser firs typically retain their needles longest after being cut.

Grow a dwarf Colorado blue spruce for evergreen beauty.

3. Balsam Firs Have a Slow Growth Rate

Balsam firs grow about 12 inches a year, taking nine to 10 years to get to the ideal Christmas tree height. So be patient!

A Norfolk Island pine is an adorable mini Christmas tree.

4. Douglas Firs Tower Over Other Trees

Douglas firs reach a height of 300 feet or more in the wild. Despite the name, this tree is not a true fir, pine or spruce.

Don’t miss our complete guide to growing holly trees and berries.

5. Look to the Cones for a Tree Clue

Spruce Branch And Cone. Fir Christmas Tree. Green Pine, Spruce Branch With Needles. Isolated On White Background. Close Up Top View, High Resolution.

Fir tree cones stand upright from branches rather than hanging down. They vary in size from 1 1/2 to 10 inches.

Learn fascinating facts about conifer trees.

6. Centuries Long Lifespan

Firs are generally long-lived, with the Pacific silver fir sometimes surviving 800 years.

Plant these small evergreen shrubs for year-round curb appeal.

7. High Elevation Fir Trees

Bnbbyc17 Mary Lou Jubin 2, fir tree facts
Eastern bluebird in Fraser fir

Fraser firs are mountain trees. They grow wild only in the Appalachians at altitudes of 4,500 feet or higher.

Next, discover 8 types of Christmas trees you can grow.


Nearly 30 million real Christmas trees are sold each year in the United States. Most of these are grown on tree farms, and the types of Christmas trees they grow vary by region. The ideal Christmas tree is one that grows quickly, has sturdy branches, and retains its needles after cutting. Want to grow your own Christmas tree for the holidays? Try one of these popular types of Christmas trees.

Also check out our guide to the best types of conifer trees and how to grow them.

Eastern white pine (pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine

Pinus strobus, Zones 3 to 8

The long flexible needles on Eastern white pines remain on the tree long after it’s been cut, so you can put up these trees as early as you like. White pine has minimal fragrance, which may be good for allergy sufferers. They grow as much as 2 feet per year, so this tree will be the perfect size for decorating in a short time. It tolerates most types of soils and conditions, and is beloved by wildlife.

A Norfolk Island pine is an adorable mini Christmas tree.

Balsam Fir tree tips

Balsam Fir

Abies balsamea, Zones 3 to 5

Need a tree that thrives in colder climates? Balsam fir is the way to go! This tree demands cooler temperatures and moist soils, making it a popular Christmas tree types in northern areas, where it grows about 1 foot per year. The needles are highly fragrant, and are used outside of Christmas to stuff pillows and create other scented gifts.

Don’t be alarmed by blisters on the bark of young specimens; this is the “balsam” resin the tree is named for. This resin is used as a rodent repellent, essential oil, and in the preparation of microscope slides.

Don’t miss our complete guide to growing holly trees and berries.

Douglas fir

Douglas Fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii, Zones 4 to 6

This is the preeminent Christmas tree type in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s very popular in other parts of the country, too. The Douglas fir (not really a true fir due to the scales on its cones) has two varieties, one found in northwestern coastal areas and the other in the Rocky Mountains. Both are excellent choices for decorating, with long-lasting needles and robust branches.

Grow Douglas fir in well-drained soil and protect from drought. Expect it to put on 1 to 2 feet of growth each year.

Learn how to make a tomato cage Christmas tree for birds.

Branches of the Colorado blue spruce

Colorado Blue Spruce

Picea pungens, Zones 2 to 7

The Colorado blue spruce stands on its own among Christmas tree types, widely admired for the lovely silvery-blue color of its needles. These needles give off an unpleasant odor when crushed and have very sharp ends, but that doesn’t stop the blue spruce from finding its way into Christmas decorations around the world.

As the name implies, it’s found in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the surrounding states, but it adapts well to many soils and climates. It grows at a rate of 1 to 2 feet per year, and requires little or no pruning to attain the perfect Christmas tree shape.

For smaller spaces, try a dwarf Colorado blue spruce.

Male Cardinal in a fraser fir tree

Fraser Fir

Abies fraseri, Zones 4 to 7

Similar in many aspects to the Balsam fir, Fraser firs are native to the Appalachian mountain region of the eastern United States. The short needles are dark green on the top and silvery green underneath, often giving the tree a bi-color appearance. It has a rich aroma, and retains its needles well after being cut.

Grow it in cooler climates at higher elevations, provide well-drained acidic soil, and expect it to grow about a foot per year. Fraser firs are narrower than some other common Christmas tree types, making them a good choice for small spaces.

After Christmas is over, check out 5 creative ideas to recycle your Christmas tree.

Noble Fir at Christmas tree farm in the Pacific Northwest

Noble Fir

Abies procera, Zones 5 to 6

Native to the Cascade and Coast Range mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the noble fir earns its name with stiff sturdy branches and excellent symmetry. It grows best in cool moist soil but can tolerate rockier conditions if given extra irrigation. The cones on this fragrant fir are large, reaching more than 5 inches in length.

It grows about 1 to 2 feet a year, with strong branches that curve slightly upward—excellent for holding heavier Christmas ornaments.

Learn surprising facts about Christmas trees.

Tender Christmas background of cypress with cones, types of christmas trees

Arizona Cypress

Cupressus arizonica, Zones 7 to 9

Do Christmas trees grow in the desert? Perhaps not quite, but the Arizona cypress comes close. This tall, moderately-scented evergreen comes from the American southwest and northern Mexico, where it thrives in warm dry conditions once established. The bluish-gray foliage and conical shape make it an attractive and popular tree in many xeriscapes.

It’s fast growth rate (up to 2 feet a year) makes Arizona cypress a nice choice for a Christmas tree. Give it well-drained sandy soil and lots of sunshine.

Try these small evergreen shrubs for year-round curb appeal.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), types of christmas trees

Red Cedar

Juniperus virginiana, Zones 2 to 9

Red cedars are one of the best types of Christmas trees to grow in the Deep South, since they tolerate the hot and humid summers. These trees have soft dark green foliage and frosty blue berry-like cones that birds and other wildlife enjoy.

Red cedar grows throughout the Eastern U.S. in nearly any soil conditions, adding about a foot or so a year to its height. The cedar aroma is unique and instantly recognizable.

Next, learn how to grow Gin Fizz juniper for a bush bursting with berries.