Porterweed is a pollinator magnet and Louisiana Super Plant for summer 2024

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

The buzz around planting for pollinators is not a new trend. In fact, we celebrate National Pollinator Week each June, and the month of May has been designated as Garden for Wildlife Month, according to the National Wildlife Federation. The National Gardening Survey shows more gardeners are limiting traditional lawns and partially replacing them with more natural landscapes that serve as native wildlife habitat and provide ecosystem services.

National Pollinator Week is June 17 to 23, 2024 — so it’s time to get planting for pollinators. There are many plants that support pollinators, and one plant in particular is a great selection. It’s called porterweed and it has been named a Louisiana Super Plant for 2024 by the LSU AgCenter.

Porterweed (Stachytarpheta spp.) is a perennial, flowering plant native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. It grows in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11. It's recognized for its distinctive, spiky flowers that grow from spring until first frost.

Plants have slender, elongated stems with compact, glossy leaves that are deeply serrated. The plant can grow from 2 to 6 feet tall by 2 to 3 feet wide depending on the species and environmental conditions.

What makes porterweed so notable? It’s the unique flowers that bloom in spikes that display small, tubular flowers in beautiful colors of blue, coral, pink, purple and red. The blooms are sequential, appearing along the spike as it grows upward. Plants grow quickly and spread through rhizomes. They often self seed, making an effective groundcover.

Several species are available and come from different regions. Blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) has deep blue flowers, coral porterweed (Stachytarpheta mutabilis) has a gorgeous coral-to-pink color and Brazilian porterweed (Stachytarpheta cayennensis) displays a deep blue color.

Porterweed is perfect for Louisiana landscapes because it thrives in warm, tropical and subtropical climates. It is sensitive to frost, so it is most often grown as an annual planting in regions with freezing temperatures but can perennialize in mild winters.

For the most blooms, plant in full sun, but plants will also do well in partial shade. Porterweed prefers a well-drained soil and does not tolerate standing water. Once established, it can tolerate brief droughts, though regular watering will improve blooming and plant vigor.

Porterweed requires minimal care; however, plants benefit from compost and good organic matter or a slow-release fertilizer at planting and occasional liquid fertilizer to support robust blooms. Plants can be pruned to keep them looking tidy and to encourage more branching and denser growth.

Porterweed is highly valued for attracting a variety of pollinators, especially butterflies and hummingbirds, making it an excellent choice for pollinator gardens and ecological landscaping due to its beautiful flower colors and excellent nectar source. Plants look great in cottage gardens, pollinator gardens, tropical and or just about anywhere in the landscape.

Because it does get rather tall, it is best grown toward the center or back of flowerbeds. It can also be used in containers or in mass plantings as a groundcover.

Porterweed is a pollinator magnet and a wonderful Louisiana Super Plant selection for Louisiana gardeners. For more information on other Louisiana Super Plants, visit www.LSUAgCenter.com.

Plant with green leaves and purple flowers.

Porterweed is a great nectar source for pollinators. Photo by Ashley Hickman/ LSU AgCenter

Plant with green leaves and red flowers.

Porterweed comes in an array of gorgeous colors including blue, coral, pink, purple and red. Photo by Ashley Hickman/LSU AgCenter

Plant with green leaves and purple flowers.

Porterweed has unique flowers that bloom in spikes that display small, tubular flowers. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

5/1/2024 7:09:44 PM
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