A beautiful garden starts with nectar-filled flowers that attract butterflies. Attracting butterflies gives your garden movement, and more beautiful as these gentle, colorful insects flit from flower to flower. Butterflies are great pollinators, too. (Remember, it’s not just honeybees that pollinate, by the way). Anything that moves pollen from the male or a flower to the female stigma can get the job done, even wind. And pollination is how we get seeds.)
The colors on their four wings are made of thousands of scales, and they have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larva stage is when they are a caterpillar. The adult is the flying beauty we all love to watch. When planning our garden, we want to think about the caterpillar’s needs and the requirements of the adult butterfly.
With over 750 species of butterflies known in the United States (and over 17,500 worldwide), it isn’t difficult to attract regional butterflies to your flower garden. But they do have preferences. Butterflies like to feed in sunny areas protected by the wind. The adult butterfly prefers on nectar (although, says the University of Kentucky Entomology Department, also rotting fruit, ooze from trees, and animal dung—so she’s clearly not THAT picky). But she does look for the best plants to lay her eggs in, preferring those with leaves and stems to feed the caterpillar stage of life.
The magnificent Monarch butterfly has a preference for milkweed, which offers nectar, stems, and leaves. Now, the name “milkweed” doesn’t sound as pretty as “rose” or “daisy,” but milkweed is an impressive and fragrant perennial. The plant comes in various colors (green, pink, purple, orange, yellow) and grows from two to five feet tall. The milkweed plant needs full sun, growing well in zones 3 to 9. Milkweed will also attract hummingbirds and, of course, bees and other butterflies.
To keep butterflies thinking of your yard as home, you’ll want to provide for all their needs by including hedges or tall grassy spots they can use to rest and hide from predators (ants, flies, wasps, birds, dragonflies, snakes, and toads), and a water source like a birdbath if there are no natural streams or ponds. Choose perennial plants that have nectar for the adult butterfly and leaves for the caterpillar stage. Among the best choices are:
-Aster -Azalea Columbine -Bee balm
-Black-eyed Susan -Butterfly bush -Coneflower
-Coreopsis -Cosmos -Dianthus
-Shasta daisy -Sunflower -Verbena
Of course, you will need to refrain from using insecticides, fungicides, and pesticides. They won’t just deter the butterflies, and they may kill them.
Posted on April 25, 2021
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