One great thing to incorporate into your backyard or patio is a butterfly garden. You don’t need a lot of space to attract these beautiful insects. Here are some tips on how to grow a butterfly garden!
What Do You Need in A Butterfly Garden?
Butterflies must have two types of plants. They need nectar plants to eat, but they also need plants to lay their eggs and feed their caterpillars. The food plants will be eaten, so they won’t look pristine all the time. Butterflies also rely on the sun to warm themselves, so including a flat rock or paving stone in your butterfly garden is a great idea.
Butterflies also like to have access to water. You can help them with this by including a shallow water source. Even just a pie pan with gravel in it will work. If you have plenty of native grasses, shrubs, and trees in your yard, they will also use those to sleep at night or to be protected on windy days.
And finally, if you are trying to attract butterflies around your home, don’t use insecticides. Even using soapy water for aphids can cause problems for butterflies. If you have a big aphid problem, let ladybugs and lacewings cut down on the population for you. Or if you absolutely must do something, just use a blast of plain water from the hose to knock aphids off your plants.
What Plants Should You Grow In A Butterfly Garden?
I think most of us are aware that milkweed is the only host plant that monarch butterflies can use to grow on. Luckily there are lots of native milkweeds all over the U.S.
There are other host plants for other species of butterflies as well. For example, the Crimson Patch butterfly needs hummingbird bush (Flame Acanthus) as its host plant. Swallowtails need rue. If you see black and yellow caterpillars on your fennel, dill, or parsley, don’t worry, those will turn into black swallowtail butterflies!
Passionvine makes a good host plant for gulf fritillary caterpillars and it grows quickly. Just make sure to give it enough space! And if you’re growing citrus for yourself, they can also host giant swallowtails.
Other good host plants for butterflies include mistflower, zinnias, cosmos, citrus, coneflower, pentas, coreopsis, calendula, sunflower, salvia, senna, frogfruit, aster and lantana.
If you are particularly interested in water efficient host plants check out this list from Rainbow Gardens, a San Antonio nursery.
Many host plants are also good nectar plants, such as milkweed, hummingbird bush, and frogfruit. And many plants that are good for other pollinators are also beneficial for butterflies too. For example, sunflowers are good for butterflies, bees, and birds. Asters are a great pollinator plant for many other insects.
More good choices for nectar plants, especially here in San Antonio include these:
- John Fannick’s Phlox
- Barbados Cherry
- Copper Canyon Daisy
- Mexican Buckeye
- Mexican Olive
- Texas Mountain Laurel
If you’re not sure what plants are best for your particular area, start out by finding what butterfly species you have. You can enter your zip code on the website http://www.gardenswithwings.com/index.html. Then look at what species of plants those butterflies utilize the most and include those in your garden!
And don’t worry if you only have a small amount of space. You can create a tiny butterfly garden using a pot on an apartment patio, a corner of your already-existing vegetable garden, or in a flower bed along your driveway.
If you want to help butterflies in other ways you can also take pictures of the butterflies you see and record them with Butterflies and Moths of North America. This site is also a great resource for information about the various species of butterflies all over the United States.
What will you grow in your butterfly garden? Do you already have one? Share in the comments below!
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