Only if you are very careful….
If your caterpillars feed on plants that have been treated with chemicals, they will die. Have the plants at your local nursery been treated with checmicals? There’s a good possibility that they have. You need to ask. But even if the nursery says “No,” you need to be suspicious. I’ve had nerseries tell me there plants hadn’t been treated, only to get them home and find out they have. The hard way.
The fact is that most retail nurseries don’t grow their own plants. They buy them from wholesale growers, and they may or may not know whether or not the wholesale grower has been using chemicals. Most wholesale growers do. But many retail nurseries may want to tell you the plants are chemical free — after all, they may not have applied chemicals — because that’s what you want to hear. So be suspicious.
The best thing you can do is develop a relationship with a local nursery that understands butterfly gardening and the importance of having chemical-free stock. They will be honest about which plants are safe, and which ones are suspect. I’ve developed such a relationship with Sun Harbor Nursery in my area. Try to find a nursery like this, with honest, committed employees, in your area.
Oh, and one more things: When it comes to buying plants, aphids are your friends. Yes, your friends. Because if the plant you’re buying is hosting aphids, you can be sure it’s chemical-free.
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