People have many reasons for creating butterfly gardens to attract these lovely fliers. Some are unsure of what is required to make this happen, however, and so they either do not attempt it or they think that they need more space or ability than they already possess. Yet it’s easy to create a butterfly garden without need of extra space or ground with container gardens. The garden can be portable too!
The Benefits of a Butterfly Garden
For most people, butterfly gardens have two major benefits: they are beautiful in their own right and they attract beautiful butterflies; and they are a great way to attract these pollinators to a vegetable or other garden so they can work their magic.
Obviously, butterflies are some of nature’s most beautiful creatures and few things can be counted as better than sitting in a deck chair on a summer evening sipping your beverage of choice and watching these beauties flit and circle around a crop of flowers.
In addition, although bees always get the credit, butterflies are one of the most prolific cross-pollinators in nature. They are generally easier to attract than bees are and arrive at just about the right time to do their magic without requiring annual care or trouble with the neighbors.
Butterfly Container Garden Ideas
So.. what do you do to attract butterflies with a container garden? We will assume that you understand how to cultivate and care for flower in pots and containers and jump straight into the flowers and species that attract butterflies the most.
All butterflies are attracted to nectar-rich flowering plants, but seem to prefer flowers that are bright and often of the same or similar coloration to the butterfly itself. To bring them in, you’ll have two major goals in mind: coloration with length of flowering and variety of plants with gradual color changes.
What that means is that you need flowers that are colored similarly to the butterflies that are in your area, flowers that bloom for long periods of time (or plants that bloom in succession so that when one completes, another starts), and flowering plants that are in a variety of shapes and sizes and whose colors are complementary and don’t shift (change) too quickly either by your layout or by the plant type itself.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s look at some examples of great container butterfly gardens.
In north-central and central zones of the U.S. a chaste tree with catmint and trailing scaevola will attract the common butterflies in the eastern and mid-western parts of the country.
Further south, growing a butterfly bush (aptly named) and coral bells or sweet peas will bring on a lot of the favored butterflies of that region. Same with garden phlox (especially in the more coastal areas) and candytuft do well.
You can also decorate current potted shrubs or small trees that look alone by adding low-growing or drooping plants like sedums, trailing lantana or verbena.
Most butterfly gardeners will plant individual plants in containers and layer them either via landscaping/shelving or by arranging the pots so that the larger are to the rear (north or west). This works well and as long as the colors are complementary, is beautiful to see and will bring on the butterflies too!
Want to learn more about container butterfly gardens?
See these resources for more ideas:
Butterflies and How to Attract Them Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Butterfly Garden Handout: Creating a Butterfly Habitat, a detailed PDF from UGA