About Rose Franklin


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    I, Rose Franklin, am a butterfly enthusiast who does a lot of talking and writing on the subject of gardening for butterflies. My husband, Andy Smith, and I live in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania, and have been involved in butterfly gardening for over 30 years. We both enjoy photographing butterflies in every life stage and thus, have grown many species of butterflies so we could photograph their eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adults.
   For the first 20+ years of my adult life, I made my living as a waitress, a florist, and a mental health technician. Then in 1991 I opened a perennial nursery that specialized in growing plants which attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden but not being able to afford either a prime retail location or a huge inventory, the business didn't do well in those first few years. By the late 1990's, my husband was suggesting I toss in the towel and go looking for a
real job. But I loved growing plants and really didn't want to give up my business, poorly as it was doing. I decided to create a web site and offer my plants on the Internet. On the Internet, physical location wouldn't matter. For a few months, I read articles on web site design, and then started creating a web site for my business. That web site,, was launched in the spring of 2000.
   In the first version of the web site, there was no shopping cart. Customers had to print the online order form, fill it out, and then mail it to me with a check, if they wanted to purchase my plants. Because of that, and also because I didn't have high rankings with the search engines, web site sales were slow for the first year. Then I added a shopping cart to the web site, optimized the site so my search engine rankings would improve, and wow, did business pick up.
   When I launched, my goal was to keep myself busy and to help out with the family finances, which my husband had been shouldering almost solely for about five years. The second year past launch, I asked my mom to help pack orders as I simply could not handle this on my own anymore. The next spring, I enlisted my dad too. Within ten years of launching, I was getting assistance from my mom and dad, my sister, a niece, a nephew, my sister-in-law, our daughter-in-laws, and a neighbor. Most of these people had full time jobs but they'd come by to lend a hand when they could on one of their days off. Andy, who had been helping with the business from the very start, retired from his carpentry job in 2012 to work full time growing and shipping plants. 
   At we offered a large selection of butterfly bushes, butterfly nectar plants, butterfly host plants, hummingbird-attracting plants, hummingbird feeders, Monarch eggs and caterpillars, flowering shrubs, and lots of other flowering perennial plants (which don't attract hummingbirds or butterflies but are still garden worthy). We were busy and I was  fortunate in having a work force that was as highly committed to the standards of high quality as I was. Every one of us took pride in what we produced and shipped. 
   Fast forward to the spring of 2019. My mom had health issues and couldn't work anymore. Our neighbor, who had been working full time for us for six years, told us that after retiring from teaching English at a local high school and then working for us for 6 years, he wanted to be completely retired and thus, handed in his resignation. My sister also had health issues and couldn't work more than a day per week. We made the decision to sell and launch a new web site, this one, 
   We sold in the fall of 2019 and by dramatically cutting back on inventory (the number of plants we offered) our business should have been cut in half .  Andy and I felt confident we could shoulder all the responsibilities of work on our own.  
   But in spring of 2020, Covid-19 appeared. That summer many people were either working from home or not working at all, apparently had money to spare, and decided to plant milkweed and raise monarch caterpillars. We were busy, extremely busy, and still are.
   So for the past 15 years or so, from mid April thru mid September, Andy and I have been working 12 - 14 hour long days, 7 days a week. But with each passing year, we become more aware that we will soon have to retire. Most of our high school classmates are already retired and we simply do not have the strength or stamina we had 10 years ago. We both have some health issues that we didn't have 10 years ago. 
   Our hope is that our health will hold up for another three to five years but will it? I don't know. Until we retire completely and permanently though, here we will be, offering monarchs and milkweed and

    As is often the case, my interest in butterflies was ignited as the result of a tragic mishap. In 1992, I killed dozens of white, black, and yellow-striped worm-like critters because they were devouring one of my crops, Bloodflower (also known as Tropical Milkweed and Mexican Milkweed).

   That winter I visited Pattee Library on Penn State’s main campus and learned that I had killed dozens of caterpillars that would have soon become majestic Monarch butterflies. I also found out that Monarch butterflies are relatively easy to raise. Now feeling guilty about having killed dozens of Monarch caterpillars, I vowed to rear enough Monarchs the next summer to replace what I had robbed from nature the previous year. 

   After a little more winter reading, I came to understand that butterfly numbers were dwindling. The consensus among entomologists seemed to be that the butterfly population had decreased by as much as 40% in the past 40 years. Destruction of natural habitat and the use of insecticides were believed to be the primary reasons for the decline in the butterfly population. Human intervention, the willingness of individuals to plant butterfly gardens and then to refrain from using insecticides in the garden , was what would likely help to increase the butterfly numbers.

   I was suddenly inspired to plant a butterfly garden. The seeds were planted for what would become a long, rewarding adventure in butterfly gardening, butterfly rearing, butterfly photography, and eventually, publishing a book on the subject of, guess what, butterflies.

   Aware of my intense interest in butterflies, many people have said to me, "You know, Rose, there just aren't as many butterflies around here as there were 20 or 30 years ago".
   Unfortunately, these people are correct in their observations. For many butterfly species, their population has declined by at least 40% in the last 40 years.
   What's happening to the butterflies? Entomologists claim that the use of pesticides and the destruction of natural habitat are probably the leading causes of declining butterfly populations. This means that humans are responsible for the dwindling numbers of butterflies. But humans can save the butterfly population too. With just a little effort, we can create a haven that is favorable to butterfly survival and reproduction.
   Many people are gaining an interest in gardening for butterflies, most of them incorporating nectar producing annuals, perennials, and butterfly bushes into their gardens. And that is great---but we should go one step further when planning a butterfly garden. To significantly increase the butterfly populations, we have to provide food for the baby butterflies, caterpillars.
   For each species of butterfly, its larva (caterpillar) can only digest a specific type of plant foliage. Some caterpillars are able to thrive on a number of closely related plants while others are able to digest just one specific plant species. This specific plant material is referred to as the 'larval host plant', the 'caterpillar host plant', or the 'butterfly host plant'. Isolate a caterpillar with an unsuitable host plant and it will starve; or it will eat, sicken, and die. One larva's staple is another one's poison.
   What makes a butterfly species abundant in one area and unseen in another often has something to do with the availability of caterpillar host plants. In order for a butterfly species to survive in any location, ample food must be available for its caterpillars. Without caterpillars, there couldn't be butterflies.
   Most butterflies live for just a few weeks or a few months. For the species to survive, therefore, the females in that species must lay fertile eggs before their short lives end. And to ensure the survival of the caterpillars that will emerge from the eggs, eggs must be laid on or near the appropriate larval host plant. When the eggs hatch, the tiny caterpillars usually eat their egg casings and then begin to feed on the host plant. After reaching their full size (often just a few weeks after hatching from the egg), the caterpillars stop eating and typically crawl away from the host plant. Each finds a sheltered location to pupate. The caterpillar sheds its skin, transforming into a chrysalis (pupa). Later a butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. (You can learn about the life cycle of a butterfly by clicking on 'Monarch Metamorphosis' on our 'Milkweed' page.)
   For every butterfly species that is native to Pennsylvania, there is a native plant that hosts its caterpillars. Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly's larvae, thistle is one of the host plants for the caterpillars of the American Lady butterfly, stinging nettle hosts the Red Admiral's caterpillars, wild carrot is a host for the larvae of the Black Swallowtail butterfly, and plantain is a host for the caterpillars of the Baltimore Checkerspot  and Buckeye butterflies.
   While it would likely increase the number of butterflies in the vicinity of one's property, most people would be reluctant to incorporate milkweed, thistle, stinging nettle, wild carrot, and plantain into their landscaped gardens. These plant species are classified as ugly, invasive weeds.
 Fortunately, the caterpillars of many butterflies can utilize beautiful cultivated plants as hosts. Along with plantain, turtlehead (Chelone) serves as a host plant for the Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars. Turtlehead is an attractive perennial plant that usually grows to about 30" high and produces lovely white or pink flower spikes. It prefers moist soil and full sun to partial shade.
   Aside from wild carrot, Black Swallowtail caterpillars are able to digest dill, parsley, fennel, rue, and even cultivated garden carrot foliage. Rue serves as a host for not only the Balck Swallowtail but also the Giant Swallowtail. American Lady caterpillars (and also Painted Lady caterpillars) utilize 'Silver Brocade' Artemisia (Artemisia stellariana 'Silver Brocade') as a host plant. And Painted Lady butterflies often lay their eggs on hollyhock, balsam, or borage.
   To host the caterpillars of the famous monarch butterfly, there are several milkweed (Asclepias) species which are elegant enough to be planted in even the most formal of gardens. White-flowering swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata 'Ice Ballet') is available at many nurseries, grows 30"-36" high, is very hardy, and is highly utilized as a host plant for monarch caterpillars. Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is native to South America and must be grown in the United States as an annual. Producing clusters of bright orange and yellow flowers, tropical milkweed grows 30"-36" high, and is also highly utilized as a Monarch host plant. Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpus) is another tropical which must be grown as an annual in the U.S. Also known as Swan Plant and Balloon Plant, Hairy Balls Milkweed grows 48"-60" high and produces clusters of delicate lavender/cream bicolor flowers. It too, is highly utilized as a Monarch host plant.
   The native host plant for the caterpillars of the Meadow Fritillary and the Great-Spangled Fritillary butterflies is the sweet violet, but pansies (actually cultivated violets) sometimes serve the purpose. Native Asters host the caterpillars of the Pearl Crescent butterfly, but many hybrid New England Asters are acceptable. Native legumes are the hosts for the larvae of the Silvery Blue butterfly but Lupine serves the purpose well. Lupine is a well known perennial that produces lovely flower spikes in May and June. You will find lots of other host plants listed on our 'Butterfly Host Plant' page, where you will also see pictures of some of the butterflies I have referred to in this article.
   Of vital importance to butterfly conservation is human willingness to refrain from the use of chemical insecticides in or near the butterfly garden. We must remember that butterflies are, after all, insects. Insecticides, therefore, have no place in a haven designed for butterflies.
   By getting involved in butterfly conservation we will be rewarded with an abundance of colorful butterflies in the years to come. If we forget that butterfly populations are dwindling and do nothing to help them in their struggle to survive, we may one day pay the price. Our beautiful butterflies may disappear.

Here Are Some Host Plants You May Wish To Locate For Your Butterfly Garden:

Butterfly: Host Plants:
Monarch Milkweed (Asclepias)
Baltimore Checkerspot Turtlehead (Chelone)
Black Swallowtail Dill, Parsley, Fennel, Rue, Queen Anne's Lace
Tiger Swallowtail Wild Cherry, Yellow Poplar
Spicebush Swallowtail Spicebush, Sassafras
Giant Swallowtail Citrus trees, Prickly Ash
Great-Spangled Fritillary Sweet Violets
Meadow Fritillary Sweet Violets
Question Mark Nettle, False Nettle, Elm, Hops, Hackberry
Comma (Hop Merchant) Nettle, False Nettle, Elm, Hops
Mourning Cloak Willow, Birch, Elm, Hackberry
Painted Lady Hollyhock, Pearly Everlasting, Thistle
American Lady Artemisia 'Silver Brocade'
Common Buckeye Snapdragon, Heliotrope, Verbena 
Viceroy Willow, Aspen, Poplar, Cherry
Red-Spotted Purple Wild Cherry, Poplar, Aspen
Dainty Sulphur Sneezeweed (Helenium)
Gray Hairstreak Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Rose of Sharon
Silvery Blue Lupine
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth Viburnum, Honeysuckle

Rose Franklin's Perennials
107 Butterfly Lane      Spring Mills, PA  16875

(814) 422-8968        Email:

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Revised: February 16, 2024