When you attract butterflies into your garden you have a win win situation. For your own pleasure, butterflies or as I heard a man from South Africa say, flutterbies, are beautiful little creatures to observe. They are graceful, colorful and fanciful as they meander throughout your garden. Butterflies also have a very practical use, they are great pollinators, second only to our beloved bees.
When planting a butterfly garden you must keep in mind that the butterfly has two distinct life stages, one as a crawling larva or caterpillar and the other as a free flying adult. To attract and keep the butterflies in your garden you will need to provide food for both stages of their development.
How to attract butterflies is best accomplished when you mimic nature. Butterflies are generally found in sun filled meadows where there is a large selection of flowers. By incorporating wildflowers and native flowers into your sunny side flower beds, you will increase your chances of attracting butterflies.
Which flowers attract butterflies into your yard? Each species of butterfly will have its own specific favorites but in general scent is very important. Flower color is almost equally important, with purple being the most favored followed by blue, yellow pink and white. Red, which seems to attract the hummingbirds, has less effect on butterflies. Flowers for a butterfly garden are best planted in mass to attract those butterflies flying past your garden. Catch their attention and they might stop and decide to stay. When possible choose the heritage or old fashioned cultivars. These plants will have a stronger scent and higher pollen production.
Plants for butterfly gardens should also produce upright flowers of a single tubular shape as butterflies draw up nectar using their tube shaped mouth. Next to these flowers plants ones with a large flat head comprised of many tiny flowers in a cluster. These make great landing spaces for the butterflies to perch. Sun, sun, sun.. butterflies love to sunbathe and enjoy landing on a warm gravel path or wall protected from the wind. Don’t forget about water, butterflies like to drink from the wet edges of ponds. They are not able to drink from open water so a mud puddle kept wet does the trick.
A short list of butterfly garden plants would include Asclepias, Verbena, Echinacea, Eupatorium, Sedum, Buddleia, Lilacs, Hemerocallis, Digitalis, Liatris, Iberis, Dianthus, Coreopsis, Lavandula, Malva, Lupine and Helianthus. Of course they are many more.