Attracting Butterflies to your Garden



There is nothing as relaxing as walking through your garden admiring your hard work and beautiful plants.  But add in a number of gorgeous butterflies floating through the air and you feel like you are in a fairy tale.  No matter in which part of the country you live you can build a garden especially designed to attract butterflies.  It can be small or large it just depends on your imagination, space, how much work you want to put into it and of course the things we love the best as gardeners “flowers”.

There are five basic requirements to having a successful butterfly garden and they are:

1. Nectar– Nectar flowers are the greatest factor for a successful butterfly garden.  The butterflies seek out the sweetness of your flowers for nourishment.  Here are a few flowers you might consider planting in your butterfly garden; yellow cosmos, zinnias, phlox, cardinal flower, butterfly weed, and purple cone-flower are just a few to consider for your garden. 

2. Water-Just like any other living creature; butterflies love to have a regular source of water.  Butterflies love wet spots which are called”puddle clubs”   Here they get to take in the moisture and nutrients from the puddles.  A thin saucer with gravel, small rocks and water placed in the shade is ideal to attract butterflies.  Just make sure some of the rocks are out of the water for them to light on.

3. Supplemental foods-Some butterflies don’t live on nectar, they prefer a more varied diet.  Some of the most beautiful butterflies, like the red-spotted purple butterfly prefer soft or overripe fruit.  The riper the fruit the better the butterflies like it.  So before throwing that rotten piece of fruit in your compost pile or in the trash, put it out in your butterfly garden to entice the butterflies.  Additionally, if you grow fruit bearing plants leave a few on the plant to rotten and the butterflies will love you for it.

4. Shelter-Another important factor for a butterfly garden is shelter.  Chilly weather and windy days are hard on these lovely insects.  To encourage butterflies into your garden make sure you have some type of shelter for them like hedges, vines and shrubs.  Butterflies love the open space to float in but they also need sheltered areas to relax and get out of the wind and weather.  When designing you butterfly garden incorporate a mixture of flowers, shrubs, vines and even trees, if you like, to provide that shelter they need.  The plants can be a combination of shade or sun loving plants depending on the area.  You can even incorporate a butterfly hibernating box into the garden.

5. Nest sites and host plants-Providing your butterflies suitable conditions whether by the use of shrubs, vines, etc., plus handmade nesting areas will ensure the likelihood of a successful butterfly garden.  Another very important factor to continually have butterflies in your garden is to have sufficient amounts of host plants where the butterflies can lay their eggs.  Having host plants in your garden will not only encourage the butterflies to lay eggs, but also will provide ample food for the caterpillars when they hatch.  I know what you are thinking, I am also a vegetable gardener also and the thought of caterpillars in my vegetable garden creating havoc on my cabbage, greens and other plants is quite scary.  You can have a successful vegetable garden and a butterfly garden at the same time.  What I do is plant some dill, asters, parsley and fennel right in the butterfly garden.  This way I hope they will confine themselves there and not my vegetable garden.  They don’t always cooperate but if you are not too squeamish about picking up caterpillars, just relocate them from the vegetable garden to your butterfly garden.  Now isn’t that was gardening is about, getting your hands involved in nature.