How to Create a Butterfly Garden

Establishing a butterfly garden can be an enjoyable and fulfilling way to encourage pollinators like honeybees, hummingbirds and seed-eating birds to help pollinate flowers and seeds. While maintaining one requires more work than other kinds of gardens, its rewards outweigh any effort put in!

Select plants that bloom during spring, summer and fall for optimal butterfly habitat. Include plants with different hues and heights so different butterfly species will find blooms to feed off of.

Plant for continuous blossom

Imagine having a garden full of vibrant blooms that attract butterflies year-round – while this ideal may not come true in your average backyard, you can still create one with proper planning and care that does.

Select flowers of varying colors, species and bloom times to provide a steady supply of nectar for butterflies. Plant them in drifts rather than individually so they are easier for butterflies to find; cater specifically to different butterfly species who require specific larval host plants; plant flowers clumped together so they will attract butterflies more visually appealing clumps are preferred by them as landing sites for the insects.

Select a sunny location, as butterflies are cold-blooded insects that require warmth to thrive. Include large rocks for basking as well as a shallow puddle that makes drinking easy (butterflies cannot drink open water). Attract butterflies with plants such as yarrow, echinacea, lupine, black-eyed Susan flowers, bee balm cardinal flower Joe Pye Weed or Phlox to keep their garden blooming all summer.

Include a variety of vegetation types

To attract a variety of butterfly species, plant both flowering plants that provide nectar as well as leafy herbs that serve as larval host plants. Some butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on certain host plants so including these into your garden provides even greater biodiversity.

An array of vegetation helps provide shade, which can sometimes deter certain species of butterflies. If possible, include flowers that bloom at different times throughout the growing season and have different heights to create vertical and horizontal heterogeneity in your garden, providing feeding opportunities and shelter for butterflies as they fly about.

Keep in mind that butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and require sun to warm their wings. To assist in their success, select an area which receives morning and/or afternoon sun for best results and add several flat stones so the butterflies can bask under them to gain maximum warmth.

Give butterflies a place to lay their eggs

An ideal butterfly garden should include host plants (where butterflies lay their eggs) and nectar-producing flowers that attract butterflies, as well as nectar-producing shrubs that suit its climate, such as lilacs, hollyhocks, sweet alyssum and native species like summersweet, mock orange buttonbush or blueberry shrubs. Plant these together so it is easier for passing butterflies to find them!

Attracting butterflies requires providing food, shelter and water. Butterflies begin life as fertilized eggs laid on host plants such as milkweed. Once their caterpillars grow large enough to start eating the leaves they spin into protective cocoons known as chrysalises; when their time comes they emerge and begin their search for mates and food sources. It is helpful to provide sunlit spots like rocks or logs so that these beautiful creatures can spread their wings while taking in some warmth from the sun’s warmth.

Provide shelter

A butterfly garden requires similar general gardening upkeep as flower or vegetable gardens, with some special considerations. When selecting plants to build your butterfly garden, opt for native species as these have already adapted to your climate and will produce lush, attractive results. Also avoid pesticides which could harm butterflies and caterpillars alike.

Use shrubs and trees as windbreaks and to offer protection from wind, rain and predators. A windbreak of mid-sized cultivars such as spruce, juniper or cypress will shield your garden while offering places for butterflies to rest overnight and hide from predators.

Make sure your garden offers multiple water sources. Butterflies prefer shallow pools of water in which to drink and absorb essential minerals from the soil. To attract these thirsty beauties, put out a birdbath or plant saucer filled with soil-and-sand mixture; make sure it stays moist by refilling often.

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