Watching butterflies in the
garden is fascinating. They provide movement and beauty in nature almost like
flying flowers. A flower garden designed to attract butterflies should provide
four things: a source of food for each stage of development, sunlight, moisture
and protection from strong wind.
Butterflies lay their eggs
on host plants and caterpillars hatch from these eggs. The caterpillars feed on
the leaves of these plants until they pupate, forming a chrysalis from which
the butterfly will emerge. Some butterflies only lay eggs on specific plants.
For example, Monarchs will lay eggs on Milkweed (Asclepias) exclusively. Swallowtails prefer Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus
carota var. carota) and the Painted Lady butterfly chooses thistle
(Cirsium). Adult butterflies feed on the
nectar of flowers. They are attracted by bright color more than fragrance,
although fragrance does play an important role. Old-fashioned species with
single flowers are better choices than hybrids because they have more nectar.
Plant flowers in large groups for more impact rather than a single species.
Butterflies also enjoy fresh fruit like banana, papaya or orange. Place some
near the edge of the garden to watch them feed.
Butterflies, like other
insects, are cold blooded and need the warmth of the sun to raise their body
temperature to a level where they can fly. Locate your butterfly garden in an
area with at least six hours of bright sunlight a day to ensure the plants and
butterflies have enough light and warmth. Strategically placing a few large
flat rocks or stepping stones in the garden will give the butterflies a place
to perch and bask in the warm sun.
Like all living things
butterflies require water to survive. They prefer shallow water or mud puddles.
Place several shallow containers filled with sand or pebbles around the garden.
Fill the containers with just enough water to cover the material. Soon you will
have groups of male butterflies hanging out near the water looking for a mate.
Butterflies thrive in a
garden that is sheltered from strong winds. Planting tall shrubs, vines and
trees around the perimeter of the garden will provide the needed windbreak.
Choose plants that provide nectar as well as shelter like viburnums,
honeysuckle, wisteria and pear or plum trees.
Resist the urge to use
pesticides! Even products that are labeled organic will kill butterflies and
caterpillars. Pick any undesirable predators by hand and remove them from the
garden. Finally, invest in a good butterfly identification book. Learn to
recognize the different species that live in your area so you can provide the
most desirable habitat possible.
Some great plants to try for butterfly flower garden
include: Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Butterfly bush (Buddleia), Bee
Balm (Monarda), Lantana (Lantana ), Phlox (Phlox),
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Cosmos
(Cosmos), Black-eyed Susan (Rudebeckia), Queen Anne’s
lace (Daucus carota),
Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) Asters (Aster) and