Creating a butterfly garden is an exciting and rewarding endeavor! It is easy to invite butterflies to your area by gardening with their needs in mind. These beautiful insects will add bright colors and entertaining antics to your garden display.
Use the following techniques to produce a delightful butterfly garden in your own backyard.
- Start your perennial butterfly garden in a sunny area. Butterflies and butterfly-attracting plants need the sun.
- Plant nectar-promising annual and perennial flowers. Butterflies visit flowers in search of nectar, a sugary fluid, to eat. Many native butterflies seem to prefer purple, yellow, orange, and red-colored blossoms. Clusters of short, tubular flowers or flat-topped blossoms provide the ideal shapes for butterflies to easily land and feed.
- Select single flowers rather then double flower varieties. The nectar of single flowers is more accessible and easier for butterflies to extract than the nectar of double flowers which have more petals per flower.
- Use large splashes of color in your landscape. Butterflies are first attracted to flowers by their color. Groups of flowers are easier for butterflies to locate than isolated plants.
- Plant for continuous blooming throughout the growing season. Butterflies are active from early spring until late fall. Plant a selection of flowers that will provide nectar throughout the entire growing season (e.g. spring – azaleas, summer – buddleia, fall – mums).
- In your butterfly garden, include host plants in the garden. Host plants provide food for caterpillars and lure female butterflies into the garden to lay eggs.
- Add a damp area, bird bath or shallow puddles to your pollinator garden. Some butterflies drink and extract salts from moist soil. Occasionally large numbers of male butterflies congregate around a moist area to drink, forming a “puddle club.”
- Place flat stones in the garden. Butterflies often perch on stones, bare soil or vegetation, spread their wings and bask in the sun. Basking raises their body temperature so they are able to fly and remain active.
- Only use organic pest control in or nearby your garden. Most traditional garden pesticides are toxic to butterflies. Use predatory insects, insecticidal soap or hand remove the pests if problems occur.
BUTTERFLIES AND PLANTS: Butterflies depend on plants in many ways. The most successful butterfly gardens include plants which meet the needs of butterflies during all four stages of their life cycle: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult. After mating, female butterflies search for a specific kind of “host plant” on which to lay eggs. For example, monarchs lay eggs on milkweed, black swallowtails on parsley, and Eastern tiger swallowtails on tulip tree or wild cherry. Some butterflies lay eggs on more than one type of plant while others only use one particular kind of host plant. In a few days, caterpillars emerge from the eggs and begin to eat. Caterpillars are selective eaters and only feed on specific kinds of plants. If the desired plants aren’t available, the caterpillars will starve rather than eat another type of vegetation. Usually female butterflies lay eggs on or near the plants their caterpillars prefer to eat. Most butterfly caterpillars feed on native plants and are not considered agricultural or ornamental pests. In a few weeks when the caterpillars are fully grown, they shed their skin for the final time and change into chrysalises. Inside each chrysalis, the body of an adult butterfly is formed. Often chrysalises are attached to plant stems and protected by surrounding vegetation. After emerging from the chrysalis, the adult butterfly soon begins to search for nectar-rich flowers to feed. Plants are important to butterflies during each stage of their life cycle. A garden designed with this in mind attracts the largest number and greatest variety of butterfly visitors!
The following is a list of a few perennial plants that are known for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds and providing them with a source for nectar.
Asclepias (commonly known as milkweed or butterfly weed) : These beautiful flowers show off their orange blossoms from late spring throughout the entire summer. Asclepias provides nectar to all types of insect pollinators, but most importantly is that the entire plant is a host for monarch butterflies.
Alliums including Chives
Achillea also known as Yarrow
Monarda also known as Bee Balm
Coreopsis also known as Tickseed
Hemerocallis also known as Daylilies
Gaillardia also known as Blanket Flower
Liatris also known as Gayfeather
Phlox (known as Garden Phlox- different from spring blooming creeping phlox) : A colorful perennial that smells wonderful and comes in shades of pinks, purples and whites. They grow extremely well in mass plantings and add height behind other perennials as they grow 2-3′ tall and wide.
Echinacea (commonly known as Coneflower) : The most common varieties are lavender with a dark center, however, they are also available in beautiful shades or orange & light yellow as well.
Rudbeckia (commonly known as Black – Eyed Susan) : A beautiful perennial with rich golden colored that flowers in mid to late summer. They are extremely hardy and easy to care for!
Lavandula : (Perennial Lavender) A beautiful herb that provides fragrance and beauty. This plant requires well drained soil as well.
Cultivated Shrubs that attract butterflies and provide a source of nectar:
Buddleia (commonly known as butterfly bush) : They are available in a low growing shrub that grows 2-3’ tall or a larger version with larger flowers in many colors that will grow 4’ – 6’ tall.
Lonicera also known as Honeysuckle Vine : These vinning plants smell amazing and tolerate full sun to partial shade.