Hosting wildlife in your landscape is a wonderful garden pleasure. Butterflies flitter and float, providing color and movement to an otherwise still and hot afternoon. And butterflies are important pollinators, which are necessary for anyone who wants abundant flowers, berries and fruit in his garden.
Here are some tips for dramatically increasing the number of butterflies in your gardens:
- Grow host plants for the caterpillars. Remember that butterflies start out as hungry caterpillars! You cannot have an abundance of one without the other. Some of the least expensive and easiest to grow host plants are herbs, particularly parsley, dill and fennel.
- It should go without saying, but we'll state the obvious: Don't randomly spray caterpillars with pesticides. Too often people rush to kill anything eating away at their plants. Be sure to identify caterpillars before spraying. This can easily be done using the Internet as a tool.
- Also grow nectar plants. Plan the garden to provide food from spring through fall. This will encourage a continuous succession of butterflies to your garden. It is especially important to have flowers in mid to late summer when most butterflies are active. Flowers with multiple florets are ideal because they produce an abundance of nectar. Try grouping several of the same plants together to lessen the distance that butterflies have to travel.
Some particularly good nectar-producing plants are:
butterfly bush butterfly weed heliotrope lantana Joe-Pye weed oregano coreopsis cosmos purple coneflower petunia thyme zinnia liatris clethra solidago aster
- Providing shelter is also important. Butterflies need protection from wind and predators and a place to roost. Plan your garden to have a diversity of heights including trees and shrubs as well as annuals and perennials. Evergreen trees and shrubs help in reducing the amount of wind in your yard.
- Butterflies need water, but not very much. You can crate puddling stations by including rocks with large divots to collect moisture in the garden.
- Sun is essential for the butterfly garden. Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that need warm temperatures to fly. They often spend the morning warming themselves on rocks and other hard surfaces. Most butterfly host and nectar plants also require a lot of sun. Try creating your butterfly garden where it will receive at least six hours of full sun.