Pearly Everlasting – Host Plant for American Ladies
Anaphalis margaritacea (Greek for “pearl-like”) is also known as Western or Common Pearly Everlasting. It is a great host plant for the American Lady butterflies. They can lay their eggs anytime during the summer but egg-laying is most common in the spring. The emerging caterpillars will feed on this plant’s foliage and live as individuals in nests made out of leaves and silk. Belonging to the Asteraceae family, it is also a nectar plant for a variety of butterflies.
Caring for Anaphalis margaritacea
This is the only specie of Anaphalis to grow as a wild flower in North America. It is considered a flowering perennial herb that dies down to the ground during cold seasons. It is dioecious, meaning the male and female reproductive parts are present on different plants. Its hardiness zone is USDA zone 3-7, and it is found across the US (except for the states bordered by the Gulf of Mexico) and up into Alaska and Canada.
Pearly everlasting is easy to grow, requiring very low maintenance. It has a robust, upright habit reaching 1-3 ft. tall and 18″-24″ wide. This plant needs well drained soil in sun to part shade and medium watering (does not like to be over-watered) until established. It is drought tolerant once established.
This plant does well in sandy, gravelly or clay-rich soils and is naturally found in mountain meadows, prairies and fallow fields.
Characteristics of Anaphalis Margaritacea
The foliage is of a silvery/grayish color. The undersides of its leaves are covered in a multitude of tiny white hairs, giving them a woolly, fuzzy feel and appearance. The stems are dry and brittle.
Pearly everlasting gets its name from the white tight buds that resemble pearls in a cluster. These small white flowers (bracts) open with a yellow center (flower) from mid-summer into fall.
This plant will often self-sow. If you do not want it to do so you may want to remove the spent flower heads.
Starting Pearly Everlasting Seeds – Propagation
Pearly everlastings can be propagated by division in spring or from herbaceous stem cuttings as well as seeds. To start from seed, sow outdoors in the fall or in spring after the last frost. Do not cover the tiny seeds with soil, as they need light to germinate. Keep them moist, but not soggy. If starting indoors before last frost, surface sow and keep at 60-70°F and they should germinate in about 2-4 weeks. Transplant seedlings when they get about 2″ tall.
These Pearly Everlasting seeds do not need pre-treatment, but they will benefit from being stored in a cool dry area (i.e. sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator) prior to planting. We keep our seeds in cool dry storage.
Benefits of Pearly Everlasting
Besides the fact that it is a nectar plant for many insects and butterflies, the American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterflies depend on it as a host plant.
Other attributes include: easy to care for, deer and rabbit resistant, wonderful fragrance when rubbing its leaves and flowers, attractive silver/gray foliage and makes a great candidate (often used) for dried flowers arrangements (it holds its pure white color). This plant adds a lot of dimensions to a butterfly garden!