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Butterfly Flower Garden

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 Sunflowers (Helianthus).

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