purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, is
seen here at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. It
is native as far north as Illinois and
you are looking for the perfect vine for a trellis or
arbor then look no further than the passionflower. Not
only will they climb with abandon, but they will adorn
your structure with the most exotic flowers on the
planet. Depending on where you live, you may even get
tasty fruit, but from my perspective they are mandatory
for all who love butterflies.
I wrote about monarchs and their absolute dependency on
milkweed species. In case you didnít know it, some of
the most dazzling butterflies that are seen in the
United States must have passionflower vines to exist.
South Texas butterflies like the Julia heliconian, Erato
heliconian and Isabella heliconian are treasured by
wildlife enthusiasts who travel by the thousands for the
opportunity to photograph them. In Florida and along the
east coast to Chesapeake Bay, admirers hope for an
appearance of the Zebra heliconian, which floats so
gracefully in the air.
even if you think they are not important to your area,
consider butterflies like the Gulf fritillary that
reaches as far north as Missouri and the variegated
Fritillary that is seen over a much larger area, which
will both lay their eggs on passionflower vines.
my time as director of the National Butterfly Center in
Mission, Tex., I admit to an obsession for butterfly
gardening and passionflower vines that host these
incredible species of winged beauties.
October, when I arrived in Savannah for my first day on
the job at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, a
Zebra helconian floated by as if giving me a special
welcome. Immediately I knew that somewhere on our 51
acres we had passionflower vines which are the larval
host plant for this butterfly.
yearís growing season revealed large stands of the
native Passiflora lutea or yellow passionflower. These
flowers are a little larger than a quarter but are just
as intricately designed.
passionflower is native from Texas to Illinois and
Pennsylvania, and south to Florida. Like their tropical
cousins they, too, attract butterflies, but these arenít
the only passionflower vines exhibiting such cold
hardiness. The native Passiflora incarnata or purple
passionflower has an almost identical native range.
there is the blue passionflower known for so much vigor
that it amazes some gardeners. Itís rated to zone 7,
and yet I hear gardeners in zone 6 saying it is too
aggressive. To be honest, passionflower vines are the
racehorses of the plant world. The blue passionflower is
native to Brazil and Argentina and offers a long
blooming season from late spring through fall. Although
called blue, it actually has white petals and scores of
attractive blue filaments.
that most passion vines require good drainage and plenty
of sunlight to be prolific bloomers. Our native yellow
passionflower, however, thrives in filtered light.
Provide a good support structure and keep well mulched.
You will find that many have the ability to climb at
least two stories high.
talked of their importance to butterflies. The question
to ask yourself is can you tolerate the caterpillars
munching on the leaves? All of the butterflies I
mentioned above are extraordinarily beautiful. Your
tolerance of holes in the leaves or partial leaves will
be rewarded with more butterflies. If the holes bother
you then consider planting a vine away from the main
area of visitation.
tropical look is hot across the country, but equally so
is the backyard wildlife habitat. A passionflower would
be the perfect vine in either situation. Talk to your
certified nurseryman about these and other great