How To Create A Butterfly Garden

Almost any space can become a butterfly garden. You can achieve this in two ways – attract butterflies with flowers they love or provide food for caterpillars

Most butterfly gardens create a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere while providing educational benefits for adults and children. Visitors can learn to identify wild and domestic flowering plants that grow in these specialized gardens, apply a few simple gardening techniques, and then prepare in advance for seasonal plants and visiting butterflies.

Butterflies in Danger

Butterflies are on the decline, so it can be important to encourage them into your yard and garden. Growth and development of our country has created crucial habitat loss, like essential fields and meadows with grasses and wildflowers. But it is possible to re-establish butterfly havens in most areas. All you need is a sunny spot, drinking water and a few well chosen plants.

Pollination – What’s the Attraction?

Butterfly Gardening

Butterflies and moths can be important pollinators as they flirt with flowers. Although they are not as efficient as bees, butterflies and moths create an important partnership with specific host plants. They taste each flower with their feet and drink with their mouths (proboscis).

As they travel from flower to flower looking for nectar to drink, they carry pollen on their legs. Unlike bees, they cannot carry pollen on their bodies, nor do they have specialized ways of distributing the powdery substance. But the pollen that they do carry is usually from their favorite flowers and this is important in the reproduction of these specific flower varieties.

Planting for Success

butterfly gardening

Learning about what to plant is crucial in attracting the right kinds of butterflies and moths. It all starts with what the larva or caterpillar likes to eat. This can include trees, shrubs, vegetables, wildflowers, and weeds.

Some favorite caterpillar cuisine includes parsley, milkweed, dill, passion vine, jasmine, and sedum. Take a walk around your neighborhood or countryside to learn what native plants are specific to your area. These are a good bet for attracting colorful pollinators. Also, consider gathering your own seeds from native plants where you live.

Different species of butterflies prefer specific plants, but there are some similarities in the type of flowers they visit most frequently. Most prefer to drink from specific plants and will seek them out for food. Knowing what butterflies like to eat will help you determine what to plant in your butterfly garden.

Butterflies typically visit flowers that provide landing platforms (zinnia, petunia, rudbeckia, daisy, cosmos, calendula) and are brightly colored. Did you know that unlike bees, butterflies can see the color red? They are also attracted to flowers that are open during the day, provide nectar hidden inside long-throated flowers (honeysuckle, nicotiana, penstemon) and contain clusters of small flowers (goldenrod and Spirea).

Butterfly Life Cycle

attract butterflies to garden

The stages of a butterfly life cycle include egg, larva, pupa, and adult. This life cycle is known as complete metamorphosis. Attracting, feeding and growing worms and caterpillars can be important in order to enjoy colorful butterflies and moths.

Water and Important Nutrients

Butterflies are cold-blooded. They need to warm themselves in the morning sun, so they seek out flat, warm stones. They also hunt for water in shallow areas where the water is fresh and warm.

It is possible to provide this water source in your garden by finding flat rocks with shallow areas that hold water. Refresh the water several times a day in the warm summer months. Simulate a rock watering refuge by filling a shallow birdbath three-fourths full of sand, then topping it with fresh water. Butterflies will also find precious minerals in low-water areas.

~ Christine Haese