How to Create a Beautiful Butterfly Garden

With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, summertime flowers are making garden beds beautiful. But did you know that what you plant can also attract butterflies? You can easily plant flowers that butterflies love best. Here's how.

Why We LOVE Butterfly Gardens

Colorful, graceful butterflies add interest to your garden and are relaxing to watch.

Luckily, planting a backyard butterfly garden is easy and fun. And it's usually low-maintenance, making this a great go-to garden choice for almost any situation. In fact, butterflies love a natural look and feel, with plenty of places to “hide” among the blooms.

The key to raising your own butterflies is to grow plants that a chrysalis (cocoon) can attach to and which the young hatchlings can eat. The flowers and leaves should be the right types to give shelter for adult butterflies and provide plenty of surface area for them to lay eggs on.

By selecting plants that host butterflies throughout their entire life cycle, you'll be able to follow your “resident” butterflies though every life stage. This provides you and your loved ones and friends with a unique opportunity to observe a truly beautiful facet of nature: the life cycle of the beautiful butterfly.

7 Simple Steps to a Beautiful Butterfly Garden

Select a location that gets partial sun during the day and has at least one shady area. A spot at the edge of a wooded area or partly beneath a tree with a decent canopy will do the trick. Most butterfly plants like the sun, but butterflies look for shade when they're ready to form a chrysalis.

Now you're ready to get started.

  • Butterfly larvae are hungry creatures and they LOVE variety! Try these: fennel, Asclepias (sometimes called “butterfly weed”), parsley, zinnias, daisies, coneflowers, nettle, hibiscus, willow, and cherry.
  • Now select some plants that contain nectar, which butterflies love to drink. Nectar plants for butterflies can be annuals or perennials. Most nectar plants have brightly colored tubular shaped flowers. Adult nectar plants include pentas, heliotrope, lantana, butterfly bush, phlox and coreopsis.
  • Larvae (caterpillars) entering the chrysalis (cocoon) stage need structures to attach to. The larva will begin to make its chrysalis by spinning silk-like threads to the stem, leaf or blade of grass, so have plenty of these sturdy little structures available in your butterfly garden.
  • Plant flowers in groups. Butterflies are attracted to masses of the same plant; they seek these out when they feel the need to “hide.”
  • While a little structure is great, try to grow at least some of your plants in groupings that feel “natural” and somewhat wild. Butterflies are attracted to flowers that grow in the wild, so they'll feel right at home in a garden that has a bit of self-direction.
  • Use organic fertilizers for your plants, and avoid all insecticides and pesticides, whether natural or chemical. Just as they get rid of pests such as aphids, pesticides may harm your butterfly population. A pesticide-free garden will attract butterflies and other natural animals such as birds because it provides a safe environment.
  • Provide areas for “puddling.” This fascinating behavior is practiced by male butterflies and involves landing in very shallow water to soak up minerals and salts with their feet. What's really lovely about puddling is that the butterflies often practice it in groups, so you get a glorious glimpse of natural beauty.
  • Put out a dish with gravel and add water, or provide a low spot in your butterfly garden if your area experiences occasional rain to fill the indentation.

Butterfly Container Gardens

If space is limited, you can still enjoy a butterfly garden. Simply plant your garden in containers.

You can use one of two different approaches.

  • One easy method is to plant each flower or grass in its own individual pot. Group the pots on our patio or whatever space you have available to make your “garden.” Use a variety of plants per the directions above.
  • An alternative method is to plant an entire mini butterfly garden in one large-size pot. You'll be limited on your amount of plants, so choose one from each grouping above: for larvae to eat, for a chrysalis to attach, and for butterflies to hide in.

Whether you have lots of space or only a few square feet, you can have a successful butterfly garden that provides beauty all summer and autumn long.

By planting appealing flowers, you'll be amazed at the creatures that come to make their home right before your very eyes.

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