If you have been considering planting a butterfly garden, do not hesitate. By planting a garden that caters to butterflies, you are doing nature a great service. You will be taking an active part in helping butterflies to not become extinct.
Butterflies and pollinators in general play a huge role in the ecosystem. They are beautiful creatures that are a wonder to behold. Every year, their population decreases.
The best way to attract butterflies is simply to plant flowers. Plant a diversity and a large amount.
Some of the best to plant are natives, so they are tough, easy to grow, and many will reseed.
You don’t have to grow native plants. Hearing the term “native plants” scares people away. The definition of a native plant is not always something that grows in the wild in your area.
Most if not all plants you’ll find in the nursery are considered native plants because they’ve been grown here for DECADES and do well in our climate. Otherwise they would not be selling them at the nursery because that’s the way they are designed: to sell plants that do well in an area.
Butterflies don’t care where the plant comes from, trust me. As long as it has nectar, they are game.
Two Kinds of Plants
You’ll need to plant two kinds of plants though. Butterflies come to your garden for two reasons: to eat and to lay their eggs.
Butterflies will mostly come to eat, but if you have the right plants, the host plants, you can work on attracting certain kinds of butterflies.
Certain butterflies can be picky but most will lay their eggs on a large range of flowering plants.
It’s really amazing that you will never see a certain type of butterfly in your yard, but if you plant its host, they will come from miles away to your garden just to enjoy their favorite flower! I have seen this happen year after year with my passionflower vines and most recently my milkweed.
The other type of plant you need is nectar plants. Basically meaning flowering. Like I said earlier, diversity is key.
You want flowers with flat surfaces to rest on.
Flowers with a tubular shape are especially popular with pollinators.
Different colors will draw in a variety of butterfly.
Keep in mind, you will definitely be attracting bees and other pollinators as well, so if you have allergies to bee sting, just be wary.
Most people will be shocked to know that wasps will be attracted to your new butterfly garden just as much as bees and butterflies will be.
Choosing Your Location
Choose a very sunny area and consequently flowers that are full sun. Butterflies can’t regulate their body temperature and need to warm up to even fly around. Kind of like a reptile you see basking in the sun.
Key Factors in a Butterfly Garden
Large rocks or bricks as a warm resting spot for butterflies are a good idea.
Shelter from the wind is important. Try to plant your butterfly garden near a wind break such as your house or a fence. Along a tree line is an effective area for butterfly gardens.
A water source is always a good attractant to butterflies. Now I don’t mean a birdbath type or fountain. Butterflies like a muddy area that they can just light upon and lap up minerals and dampness. Picture the shore of a pond or a semi dried up mudhole you’ve seen with those yellow butterflies on it. They were drinking.
You can create this yourself just by spraying a dirt area and keeping it damp. Filling some type of basin with sand and watering it daily works great for attracting butterflies!
Providing nectar sources from early Spring through Fall will keep butterflies coming around. Many plants thrive and flower in the spring and summer.
Plant flowers that bloom in the Fall to provide energy for the butterflies that overwinter or migrate.
Plant flowers that bloom in the early spring to feed the early migratory arrivals or the newly emerging overwintered butterflies.
Gardening Practices to Avoid
Say NO to Pesticides
Refrain from using pesticides near your butterfly garden for obvious reasons. Butterflies are very fragile and sensitive to the environment and can easily be poisoned by chemicals meant for other unsavory insects.
Consider placing bird feeders or birdbaths far away from your Butterfly garden. We have to consider the predator prey relationship between birds and butterflies. Creating a backyard habitat for all wildlife is great but remember many bird’s main food source is insects
A Few Choice Flowers To Consider
Here’s a list of a few flowers that Butterflies absolutely love! I chose these varieties because most of them are very common and readily available in any home improvement store or local nursery.
- Bee balm
- Cone flowers