There’s something very relaxing about watching butterflies flit around the yard. They casually flutter their wings, making stops to feed off of brightly colored blooms. If you enjoy watching them, why not turn your yard or garden into a safe haven for butterflies? It really doesn’t take all that much effort.
The first thing you need to do is research to find out which butterflies are native to your area. If you have trouble finding the information, a call your local extension agency should be all it takes.
It helps to have a little knowledge about butterflies. They begin their life in the form of eggs that have been laid on the plants by an adult. The eggs then hatch into tiny caterpillars or larva that begin munching on their egg shells before moving onto eating the host plant. Larvas prefer eating plant leaves and they can display a voracious appetite. The caterpillars will molt (crawl out of their skins) several times before changing into a chrysalis, which is the pupa stage of a butterfly’s life.
Once the adult butterfly emerges from the pupa, it will fly off to look for food and plants on which to lay its own eggs. Adult butterflies feed on nectar.
Draw Butterflies With Sweet Nectar
Start by adding nectar plants to your garden or yard in order to attract the adults. There many plants that can be used to attract butterflies, but planting a couple of butterfly bushes will easily get you off to a good start. Some other choices include salvia, coneflowers, verbena, marigolds, lavender, asters, bee balm, blueberries, butterfly weed, goldenrod, lilacs, yarrow and azaleas.
You will need to provide plenty of host plants. Keep in mind that different species of butterflies prefer different plants, so be sure to familiarize yourself with the needs of the butterflies that inhabit your area. Expect the host plants to be eaten by the hungry larva. Milkweed, thistle, day lilies, nasturtium, dill, parsley, alfalfa, plants in the mustard family, clover and sunflowers are among the plants that the larvas prefer to eat.
Minimize the use of pesticides and insecticides in your yard and garden so as not to kill off the butterflies you are trying to attract.
Where to Plant Your Butterfly Garden
When choosing a spot to start a butterfly garden, pick a spot in a warm, sunny place because butterflies are cold blooded. Be sure to include flat rocks on which they can rest. It is also good to provide water for them. Take a shallow pan or pie plate and fill it with pebble. Add some water. This gives the butterflies a resting spot where they can also safely get water.
It is good if there is a shady spot nearby so that the butterflies can cool themselves if necessary.
Butterflies are fragile creatures, so it is best to protect a butterfly garden from gusty winds. If you don’t have a natural shelter such as a bank or wall to do this, try planting tall grasses and plants.
Want to learn more about attracting butterflies?
Visit Texas A&M University’s Attracting Butterflies guide to learn more.
Read the Iowa State University Extension pamphlet to learn more about gardening for butterflies (PDF file).
Find out more about starting a butterfly garden from the University of Florida IFAS Extention.