Native Butterfly Gardening
There are several levels of butterfly gardening depending on whether you want to just attract a few or provide a habitat inviting several varieties to move in lock, stock, and chrysalis. You can start by planting a few nectar plants or providing other lures to attract the butterflies in your area. You may find that you're satisfied or that you're so enchanted by your fluttering visitors that you want to do more.
Butterfly habitat necessities
Planning a successful butterfly garden
- Adult food sources
- In the garden, these are most often plants that provide nectar for adult butterflies. Most butterflies aren't very picky and will feed from a variety of flowering plants, though they may have a favorite or two. Other food sources include fermenting fruit, manure, carrion, and mud.
- Host plants
- Plants that provide a site for the butterfly to lay eggs and a food source for the emerging caterpillar. Be prepared for heavy munching on host plants.
- Woody plants located near the nectar plants will provide butterflies with shelter during bad weather and at night.
- Butterflies can't drink from open water. They prefer very wet sand or soil.
- Butterfly species
- Determine which species live in your area and which ones you want to attract. Several walks around your neighborhood will help you determine which butterflies are in the area and what they're feeding on.
- Select a site
- Butterflies prefer to feed in sunny areas protected from the wind. You'll probably want the garden where you can see it yet not right next to heavily trafficked or play areas (nectar flowers may attract bees and other stinging insects). It should also be in an area away from pesticide use.
- Decide on the type of garden
- Select plants suited to the selected butterfly species and that will fit in with the type of garden you'd like to have whether it be formal or natural or somewhere in between. You can even have a butterfly rock garden.
- Adult food plants
- Find out more about the native nectar plants that will attract the butterflies in your area.
- Other attractions
- Sugaring may be just the entree for your neighborhood butterflies or perhaps a nectar feeder. You might also consider providing a "puddle" or an area basking.
- Host plants
- Find out more about the host plants that butterflies will lay eggs on and that will feed the caterpillars. Host plants aren't just maternity wards. Many butterflies are more likely to frequent nectar plants that are near host plants and may feed on the host plants, too.
- Find out more
- Check out our listing of butterfly clubs and organizations.
Many gardening shops have realized the popularity of butterfly plants, often grouping them together. You'll end up taking home at least one of each! Not to worry, butterflies do appreciate variety.
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