Building a Butterfly Garden

August 1, 2017

Building a Butterfly Garden

The glimmering wings and graceful flutters of butterflies bring color and movement to the landscape while they aid in the pollination of flowers, fruit, and vegetable plants. Unfortunately, urbanization and other development are shrinking their natural habitat, leaving fewer places to feed, mate, and lay eggs. By making your yard butterfly-friendly, you will attract swirls of these colorful creatures to your home and at the same time help to preserve them.

Butterfly gardens don’t have to be large. You can grow plants in containers on a patio or even in hanging pots and window boxes. Butterflies need the sun to maintain body temperature, so place your garden in the sunniest location possible. The key to attracting butterflies is to provide them with lots of nectar sources; they also prefer to feed on open, tube-shape flowers. Choose a variety of fragrant, colorful flowers to keep your garden blooming from spring until frost. These can be perennials like asters, bee balms, and sedums, and flowering trees and shrubs including crab apples and lilacs. Zinnias, marigolds, and other long-season annuals will help keep your garden in constant bloom.

All butterflies start out as caterpillars that require host plants on which to feed. Many of these are native plants—weeds and wildflowers that may already be growing on or near your property. Some good choices include clovers, milkweeds, and violets. Consult a field guide or other reference to find out what butterflies are in your area and which plants they prefer.

After a rain, you may see butterflies congregating around a puddle or damp area in the garden to drink and extract minerals from the soil. Maintaining a puddle in the same spot will keep butterflies coming back. Plant a few shrubs or tall grasses to provide hiding places from predators and add a bench or rock from which you can observe these amazing insects.

Butterfly gardening has become big business. Butterfly farms offer live butterflies to release at special occasions, especially weddings. Who knows? Filling the air with butterflies might just lessen a few in the stomachs of the bride and groom.

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