Ah, that magical feeling you get when a butterfly comes drifting into your garden. I especially enjoy having butterflies in my yard because I enjoy taking photos of them. The intricate coloring and patterns of their wings are comparable to a work of art. This is all about how to attract butterflies and keep them coming back.
Butterflies are important to our gardens because they act as pollinators and natural pest control. In recent years, as the climate becomes hotter and drier, the number of butterflies is declining in the United States and across North America. Having a butterfly garden that serves as a sanctuary for butterflies to live in and thrive is a way you can get involved with protecting and conserving this species of insect.
When you create a butterfly garden, you want to think about the whole life cycle of a butterfly. Selecting plants that act as host plants and nectar plants will invite butterflies to stay around for the long haul. With a bit of planning and careful selection of plants, you can expect to see butterflies making your garden their home.
Here are a few things to know about creating a beautiful and colorful garden oasis for butterflies.
How To Attract Butterflies To Your Garden
Provide A Source Of Shelter In Your Butterly Garden
When adult butterflies visit your beautiful garden they are in search of a butterfly sanctuary, somewhere where they feel safe and protected. This is what will also ensure that new generations of butterflies will hatch right in your yard. It’s always fun spotting a chrysalis on one of your plants.
So when thinking about starting your butterfly habitat try choosing a location that’s sheltered from strong winds. The butterflies don’t like it and besides, they’ll blow right away.
Another thing to consider is grouping plants together as this offers more shelter for the butterflies. Plant in mass, having some variety in the types of plants, as well as sizes.
A great addition to can consider is a butterfly house. A butterfly house is exactly what it sounds like, a protective house for butterflies with small slats that allow butterflies to enter and just small enough to keep out any predators. Butterfly houses can be incorporated into your garden. They come in a variety of styles and colors and can show off your personality.
Keep It Organic
Practicing organic gardening principles is important in any garden. Your initial reaction to spotting pests in your garden may be to use pesticides. However, pesticides won’t be limited to preventing and killing just those pesky aphids and mealybugs but also the butterflies you are trying to attract.
There are organic routes you can take to control an infestation. Most plants can be treated with horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, and neem oil. Just do a little research on the plants you will be treating to ensure they will not be negatively impacted by any of these solutions.
Related: Organic Flower Gardening: Good Things To Know
Butterfly Puddling Station
Have you ever seen a group of butterflies all congregating near shallow puddles? Butterflies love muddy puddles because of all the minerals they get from sipping on the water. They can’t live on sugar alone and they need vitamins and minerals just like humans.
There is an easy way you can replicate a muddy shallow puddle, by taking a saucer or shallow dish and filling it with wet sand, flat rocks, and water. Place this in your butterfly garden and watch the butterflies congregate around it.
You can also add a puddling stone to your garden. This is a shallow watering station that butterflies can drink water from. There’s a collage at the bottom of the post that provides links to buying puddling stones online.
Plant Selection In Your Butterfly Garden
Butterflies have preferences for the nectar plants they like. Doing some research to find out what butterflies are common to your area can help you with choosing the host plants and nectar plants you will need.
I live in Tucson, AZ where Fritillaries, Black Swallowtails, and Monarch Butterflies are popular. When choosing plants for my garden I tend to select ones that are drought tolerant. My Red Bird of Paradise plants are in full sun, offer good shelter, and butterflies love them. Other plants that do well here in Tucson are Lantana and Bottle Brush.
Choosing plants that support a butterfly through its life cycle is important to have a successful butterfly garden. There are 2 types of plants that you will want to have; host plants and nectar plants. Host plants are where females lay their eggs so when a caterpillar emerges it already has a food source. For example, milkweed plants are host plants for Monarch caterpillars. Nectar Plants are what an adult butterfly will feed off of.
Having a variety of sizes will attract a variety of different-sized butterflies and different butterfly species. The type of nectar flower is also important; flat flowers are easy to drink from. Nothing tubular – leave those for the hummingbirds. You can go with perennial plants or annuals, such as Penta, Zinnia, Gaillardia, Purple Coneflowers, and Bee Balm.
Resource: Check out our list of 29 Plants That Attract Butterflies, all with photos
How To Attract Butterflies With Fruit
Nectar sources are the staple of butterfly diets but did you know some butterflies also love fruit? They can’t chew it but can drink it, so adding slices of oranges and watermelons to your garden is a great way to attract more butterflies.
There are butterfly fruit feeders that you can purchase or you can make a DIY feeder to add food sources to your garden.
How To Attract Butterflies By Planting In Mass
A successful butterfly garden is one that has a variety of plants for butterflies to be attracted to. Butterflies are attracted to bright colorful flowers (they see them better) so choose perennials and annuals that grow well in a sunny area of your garden.
The right plants play an essential role in butterflies being able to complete their life cycle. So as long as you’re planting one plant, why not plant three.
Choosing plants with the longest blooms throughout the year is more opportunity for a butterfly to spot the brightly colored flowers and come visit your garden. Having a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year yields more time for butterflies to pollinate. For instance, some bloom all season, some in early summer, some in late summer, and some into early fall.
Short on space? You can still create a butterfly garden
Not everyone has space for a large butterfly garden and that’s ok too. If you only have a patio or balcony for gardening you can still take part in butterfly gardening. Planting in containers with a mix of butterfly plants such as bee balm, blanket flower, and salvia is an excellent way to have your own butterfly oasis.
Related: 14 Colorful Annuals For Full Sun, How To Plant Perennials to Grow Successfully
To Attract Butterflies, Colors Matter
Bright flowers attract butterflies especially; red, orange, yellow, purple, and pink. There are some colors that aren’t as attractive to butterflies such as blue and green. Zinnias and cosmos come in a wide array of colors and are easy to maintain. These annuals are great options to consider for your butterfly garden as they’re easy to tuck in anywhere.
To maintain your butterfly garden throughout the season pruning is vital. Deadheading is the act of cutting off old blooms to reinvigorate the plant and encourage repeat blooming. This is also a great way to get yourself outdoors and hands-on in your garden.
Related: How To Clean & Sharpen Your Pruning Tools
Butterfly Garden Essentials
1. Monarch & Milkweed Design Puddler // 2. Butterfly Bath // 3. Yellow Butterfly House // 4. Whimsical Butterfly House // 5. Rustic Butterfly House // 6. Banana Hammock // 7. Ceramic Feeder // 8. Lavender Design Puddler
Butterflies are incredible specimens and taking part in their conservation is a meaningful way to garden. You can find beautiful Zinnia’s to grow from seed here to get you started on creating a butterfly garden. Hope you found these tips on attracting butterflies helpful and that you see some native butterflies in your garden soon.
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I’m a life-long gardener who still to this day gets giddy at the thought of a trip to one of the local nurseries. Yes, I actually studied landscape and environmental horticulture and the practical experience I have garnered through the years has served me well. Childhood memories of chicken manure “tea” still float through my olfactory senses to this day. I have always been an organic gardener and always will be. From the Earth … To the Earth. I was born and raised in rural, bucolic Litchfield County, Connecticut and now joyfully live a few blocks from the ocean in beautiful Santa Barbara, California.