Thursday, August 24, 2006

Creating Your Own Butterfly Garden

By Brandi M. Seals

If you love butterflies and are planning on updating your garden or are doing some landscaping, why not create a butterfly garden? These easy to put together gardens will draw butterflies to your yard. Each time you look at your garden you may be delighted with the sight of several beautiful fluttering butterflies. Plus is you have children they will be fascinated with every butterfly sighting and may even want to help out with the gardening process.

There are few things to keep in mind while designing the perfect butterfly garden. You need to concentrate on finding nectar plants for butterflies to feast on and host plants to support the caterpillars and feed them, picking plants that have a long flowering period and placing the garden in an area that sees lots of sun.

The following is a list of nectar plants that full grown butterflies seem to be attracted to:

Alfalfa (perennial)
Ageratum (annual)
Broccoli (annual)
Catmint (perennial)
Chrysanthemum (perennial)
Coneflower (perennial)
Cosmos (annual)
Daylily (perennial)
Flowering cabbage (annual)
Goldenrod (perennial)
Lavender (perennial)
Marigold, African and French (annual)
Pitcher Sage (perennial)
Shasta daisy (perennial)
Snapdragon (annual)
Sunflower (annual)
Sweet William (annual)
Verbena (annual)

Some are annuals, others are perennials. Decide what you want and what would look best in your yard. Of course there are many other plants that butterflies will love, but they will all be nectar plants. These are the types of plants that attract butterflies. Nectar plants produce a sweet fluid known as nectar that many insects like butterflies and bees eat. So keep in mind that you will also be drawing other insects when you plant your garden.

With a little bit of research anyone can find plants that attract butterflies. However, for a truly magnificent garden that appeals to butterflies at all stages in there life, you will also want to invest in plants that caterpillars feast on.

Butterflies will generally only lay their eggs on one type of plant. This is known as the host plant. Not only will it hold the eggs, it will also serve as a food source for caterpillars. Each butterfly species has its own host plant and they won’t lay their eggs on a plant that is not a host plant. So if you are trying to attract monarch butterflies, you had better have some milkweed in your garden. If you don’t, the monarchs may stop by to check out your nectar plants, but they will move somewhere else to lay their eggs.

First find out what butterflies are common in your area and then you can find out what to plant to attract them. The following is a list of common host plants and the butterfly species that use them:

Asters - Pearly Crescentspot
Cherry laurel - Tiger Swallowtail and Red-Spotted Purple
Dogwoods - Spring Azure
Elm - Mourning Cloak and Viceroy
Milkweed - Monarch
Passion flowers - Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing
Plantains - Buckeye
Dill, Carrot, Fennel, Parsley, and Queen Anne’s lace - Black Swallowtail

Finally when picking out your plants try to get ones with a long blooming period or stage the garden so that there will always be something in bloom from early spring until it begins to cool down. Butterflies are active during this entire period so you will want to offer them an active butterfly garden during that whole time.

When deciding where to place the garden, try to think about the butterflies and what they would like. Think about it, what do you usually see butterflies doing? They love to flutter by nectar plants and they love to sit and bask in the sun for hours on end. With that in mind it becomes important to place your butterfly garden in an area that receives lots of sunlight. In fact the sunniest part of your yard is probably the best location for your butterfly garden. In doing research on where to place a butterfly garden, it seems that an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily is the best spot.

Give the butterflies time to find your garden. It may be a success right off the bat or it may take awhile for passing butterflies to notice the smorgas board you have set up for them.

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