Ask the expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
BASF Living Acres Monarch Challenge will help farmers create milkweed habitat monarchs need to make their way north.

Q: I saw a perennial cactus for sale at my local garden center but the lady couldn't tell me anything about it. Will it grow here?

A: I'm not sure what you saw at your garden center, however, native prickly pear cactus will grow in many areas of the state. This cactus is a low growing variety that spreads quickly and produces large, lemon yellow blossoms in late spring or early summer. Easy to grow, these plants make an unusual specimen in and conversation piece in the garden.

Q: Where can I find allium for sale?

A: Many gardeners sell a variety of allium that are potted during spring and summer. There are allium that are sold as bulbs in fall, alongside tulips and daffodils. These are the varieties that form the tall, globes of flowers you see in spring and early summer. Each year, there are more and more varieties of summer blooming alliums that are sold as clumping perennials. These include varieties such as Summer Beauty, Millennium and Blue Eddie. There is also native nodding pink onion. This is Wisconsin's native allium that grows wild in prairies and grasslands.

Q: What plants will attract monarchs to my garden?

A: Many varieties of plants, both annual and perennial will bring monarchs to the garden. The only host plant that monarchs will use for caterpillars are the varieties of milkweed. Orange milkweed, or butterfly weed, is a beautiful, compact version of this monarch favorite. Nectar plants to attract monarchs are also beneficial. Try blazing stars, or liatris, zinnias, heliotrope, bee balm, garden phlox, asters, purple coneflowers, Black-eyed Susan, joe-pye weed, ironweed and more.

Q: I'm looking for the biggest hostas I can find. What hostas grow the largest fast?

A: Giant hostas that grow relatively quickly are Sum and Substance, Sun Power, Coast to Coast, Empress Wu, Humpback Whale and Blue Angel. There are many other varieties available, however to reach full size, many take 4 to 5 years.