If you’re looking to get more out of your garden this year, you may want to think about adding flowers and plants that attract wildlife. One species of wildlife that adds stunning beauty to a garden is the butterfly. The flowers add fragrance to your garden and watching the butterflies interact and go about their daily lives is relaxing. Here are a few tips to help you build a fabulous butterfly garden right in your own backyard. [photo via flickr]
Do your research. Find out which butterfly species is common in your area and which ones you’d like to attract to your garden to give it life. The Internet is a great place to start and you may want to purchase a butterfly field guide to help you decide.
Choose plants that “host” butterfly caterpillars (larvae). To attract butterflies to your garden, you need to supply them with food for their young. A couple good examples are:
- Milkweed: attracts the Monarch butterfly. Monarch caterpillars feed on and spin their beautiful green and gold chrysalises on this plant. You can watch the whole process take place right in your garden!
- Parsley: attracts the Black Swallowtail caterpillar.
Choose nectar-producing plants and flowers that the adult butterflies can feed on. There is a huge variety of plants that fit this bill and some are:
- Butterfly Bush: a large plant (4-6 feet tall) that attracts the Swallowtail butterfly.
- Swamp Milkweed: grows to about 3 feet tall and hosts the Monarch caterpillar.
- Joe Pye Weed: this is a perennial that grows very large (up to 8 feet tall). The Swallowtail likes this plant.
- Aster: grows up to 3 feet tall and many butterfly species love this lovely plant.
- Bee Balm: attracts bees and butterflies and grows up to 2 feet tall. This plant will come back year after year.
- Zinnia: attracts a variety of butterfly species, but the taller plants seem to attract more butterflies. Grows to about 4 feet tall, is an annual, but it is easy to start from seed each year.
- Pentas: attracts Swallowtail butterflies and grows to about 2 feet high. This plant is an annual in cold climates, so keep this in mind when planting.
- Heliotrope: attracts many different species of butterfly and grows to about 2 feet tall. It is a perennial in mild climates, but will not return year after year in cold climates.
Plan your garden according to the full-grown size of the plants and their need for light and water. It may be easier to draw your garden out on paper so you can visually see how each plant will look and grow with its surrounding neighbors. Plant contrasting, but complementary, colors together with taller plants behind shorter ones for a visually appealing result.
Decide where you will purchase seeds and plants. You can get them at your local garden center or online, but if you decide to start your plants from seed, make sure you purchase them early enough to begin growing before spring arrives.
Plant your garden. Pay close attention to the specific needs of each plant and make sure to keep them well watered until they get established. Weed your garden regularly so new plants don’t have to compete for space and can grow healthy and strong.
Enjoy your garden. Once your plants begin blooming, you’ll notice more and more butterflies visiting your garden. Watch female butterflies laying eggs, caterpillars feeding and spinning cocoons and enjoy the new life in your garden.