Planning a Butterfly Garden

If you are planning a butterfly garden this year, these tips will help you attract the beautiful creatures to your garden. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, it is important to provide the environment gives them everything they need. You’ll need to provide plants that the caterpillars can use, food for the adult butterflies, and a good place for the butterflies to breed.

 Butterflies also need some sort of shelter from wind.  Although they really like open areas with a lot of sun, you’ll probably need to provide some sort of windbreak to protect them from high winds that can disturb them.

 Butterflies often congregate by the edges of mud puddles. It isn’t known exactly why butterflies enjoy mud puddles so much, but it’s thought that it may be certain minerals that are present in the muddy water.  If you want to attract a lot of butterflies, you might consider keeping some damp areas in your garden – just be aware that standing water can also attract mosquitos! 

Female butterflies need plants that can be eaten by the caterpillars that hatch from their eggs.  Black swallowtails prefer dill and parsley, for example.  Monarch butterflies typically only lay their eggs on milkweed.  Female butterflies spend a lot of time searching for exactly the right species of plants to lay their eggs on.

Adult butterflies eat nectars from various flowers.  Flowers that contain a lot of nectar are especially attractive to butterflies.  These flowers are usually brightly colored and sweetly scented.  Some species of butterflies feed on the honeydew produced by aphids.  Some even feed on bird feces or rotting fruit!

Your butterfly garden should contain at least one big patch of flowers that will attract butterflies.  You may want to get flowers that bloom in sequence, because this will keep butterflies visiting your garden more often. 

You should bear in mind that many flowers that are preferred by butterflies are considered weeds.  For example, dandelion is very attractive to several types of butterflies.  Thistle is another weed that many types of butterflies enjoy. Of course, just because something is called a weed doesn’t mean it is useless – you might consider cultivating a small area of dandelions in your yard for their delicate spring leaves – they make great salads or can be cooked like spinach.

If you have an herb garden or vegetable garden, you may notice some butterflies congregating on some of your plants there.  The European cabbage butterfly enjoys broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables.  The black swallowtail often frequents herbs such as dill and parsley.

Don’t use insecticides in your garden unless absolutely necessary, because they can kill caterpillars.  Some insecticides can also kill the adult butterflies if they land on plants that have been treated, or if they drink nectar that was polluted by poison. These poisons are bad for humans and wildlife, so it is best to find alternatives.

Some flowers you should plant if you like to attract butterflies include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, herbs like parsley and dill, and many types of flowers.  Some great flowers for butterfly gardens include asters, lilacs, verbena, zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, thistles, butterfly bush, bee balm, and sweet pea.

Making your garden hospitable for butterflies doesn’t take a lot of extra work.  Simply keeping a small wet area for them and planting a few plants that they’ll enjoy is often enough to attract a number of butterflies. Before you know it, you’ll have the most beautiful butterfly garden you can imagine.

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