If you enjoy watching butterflies, encourage them to visit your
butterfly garden by planting the flowers that they find most attractive.
The first step in creating a butterfly garden is to choose the proper
site. Butterflies are most active in bright sunlight, so pick a
spot that gets plenty of sun and is sheltered from the wind such
as the south side of your house. You also might want to make sure
your butterfly garden is a place where you can easily observe the butterflies.
When planning your butterfly garden, include space for a flat, light-colored
rock for sun basking. Butterflies also need a ready supply of water
and protection against predators. One way to keep birds away is
with the use of inflatable snakes. Or you can place birdbaths and
feeders a distance from the garden.
Sticky tape and flytraps will help catch preying insects. Avoid
use of insecticides as the same products that kill undesirable insects
also kill the butterflies.
A wide variety of plants attract butterflies. Although most species
have specific nectar preferences, in general, butterflies like daisies,
lilacs, lavender, phlox, heliotrope, zinnias, candytuft, coreopsis,
lilies, butterfly bush and snapdragons.
A "must-include" plant is the butterfly weed, so named for its
popularity with butterflies. It is a perennial noted for its clusters
of bright orange flowers and blooms in early summer. Butterfly weed
may be purchased at many garden centers.
Butterfly bush is another good choice although it is only marginally
hardy in zone 5 (but could be grown in zones 3 and 4 as an annual).
It is a large shrub with spikes of purple, pink, white, or lavender
flowers that bloom in late summer.
To encourage butterflies to stay all summer long, select plants
that flower at different times of the year to provide a continual
supply of nectar. Deadheading faded flowers will promote vigorous
growth and new blooms.
To ensure future generations of butterflies near your butterfly garden,
you'll need to provide larval food or sacrifice plants. Most species
are fussy about where they lay their eggs, selecting plants from
specific families that will provide appropriate food for hatching
caterpillars. Preferred plants include asters, daisies, violets,
honeysuckle, and fennel.
Caterpillars also like weeds such as clover, thistle, and milkweed.
If possible, leave a few weeds along the edge of the butterfly garden or nearby
areas for the caterpillars.
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor