With Spring well upon us, it’s time to get started on my small butterfly garden plans. As with all garden adventures, a little planning goes a long way. The good news is, that as long as you know which flowers attract local butterfly species, the rest of the “plan” is mostly creating a habitat that welcomes the butterflies to stick around.
What butterflies are in your local area?
The most important part of considering starting a butterfly garden is- you guessed it- the butterflies! If there are not a a particular species of butterfly in your area, then growing a flower that attracts it might give you a pretty bloom, but no winged visitors. There are lots of different habitats, and to figure out what your local butterfly population is, check out this site, it’s a great resource!
There are also flowers that bloom at different times. You’ve got your spring bloomers like daffodils, snowdrops, Snapdragons, the Pansy, Ameria, Candytuft and Dianthus. You’ve got your summer blooms like clemantis, iceplant, foxglove irises, black-eyed susan, butterfly bush, coneflower, daisy, aster, oriental lilly and lavender. A couple fall bloomers are daylilly and sedum.
With the timing of your bloomers considered, you also have to take into account the butterflies themselves. Not all are great migraters like the famed and far-traveling Monarch. Knowing the expected native varieties of butterflies to your area will assist you in your efforts to match up potential migration, mating, and nursery times of the species with the blooming of your flowers, therefore increasing the likelihood of attracting the beautiful visitors to your garden!
What plants are the local butterfly population drawn to?
What kind of plants are your local butterfly population drawn to? Depending on where you live, there are a wide variety of plants that can bring butterflies to your yard. Knowing the type of butterfly makes plant selection a much easier task. I have found a couple useful websites (here and here) that give a break-down of the general area a species of butterfly frequents and their preferred food source.
Some of the more common plants that can attract the desired garden visitors are:
What other features encourage butterflies to stay in the garden?
A few things butterflies like in general are shallow pools of clean water that have large, flat rocks or sand for them to perch on and bask in the sun. The large surface area of a butterfly’s wings means a place to shelter from the wind can be of particular import to the fluttering insects.
A small woodpile in the corner of the garden is a great natural habitat but there are actually butterfly houses you can purchase to encourage the beauties to stay and set up shop. Some species of butterflies migrate, while others stay in the same regional area their entire life-cycle. Which you will have more encounters with depends on your location. Is your area where a particular species over-winters, or are you simply on the migratory path?
Some butterflies are attracted to overripe fruit, so a small dish can come in handy. Make sure to change out the fruit frequently to avoid attracting wasps and the like.
What issues might attracting butterflies to your garden create?
One of the hazards of butterflies taking a liking to your garden is that before they are butterflies, they are caterpillars. Caterpillars can be the bane of any gardeners existence if they are not wanted or if they are not prepared for. Creating that irresistible habitat for the butterflies is a great idea until the next spring when all the caterpillars eat all the young tender seedlings and sprouts you’re planning on using to attract the butterflies later in the growing season. Preparing for this both mentally as well as agriculturally will help keep the frustration with the young butterflies at bay. Anticipating the caterpillar population, and providing an extra source of suitable food that won’t end up wiping out your blooms is essential to a sustainable and long lasting butterfly garden.
Butterfly gardens are a time honored tradition that bring joy and wonder to all!
With all the screens and virtual reality taking our kids and ourselves further and further away from the beauty of creation makes getting outdoors and fostering a connection with nature even more essential than ever before. With all the extra time a lot of us are spending around the house, creating the improvements that will keep us as entertained as the newest streaming service can be a fulfilling and frustrating experience, but all the more worth it when you see the spark of creativity and imagination ignite in someone’s eyes. Simple things like a butterfly garden can accomplish so much more than you realize, and with a little research, planning and a good execution, it will seem effortless to neighbors, family and friends who reap the rewards of our colorful, fluttering friends.
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