One of the purest joys of any gardener is the sight of your garden in full bloom. Reflecting on the hard work, time, and commitment that has gone into planting your gardens, seeing it all come to life in beautiful blooms and healthy plants is one of the many rewards! To top it all off, having your gardens attract winged passers-by, such as birds and butterflies, is one of the many bonuses to gardening, creating the perfect finish to your garden masterpiece.
Growing a garden that will attract butterflies does not have to difficult. And with a little thought and planning, you can create a garden that is not only attractive to a number of different species of butterfly, but can sustain and promote their health and life cycle.
Colour and Nectar
Planting a garden that will draw butterflies requires colour and nectar. Butterflies are drawn to clusters of bright blooms, and having blooms that provide a heavy source of nectar will go a long way in bringing butterflies. Flowers that have a source of nectar are particularly important since they have the food sources that adult butterflies need for energy.
There are several varieties of flowers that will help accomplish this, and many plants at greenhouses will come with an “Attracts Butterflies” tag or sticker, so look for these plants when you’re doing your shopping. Fine Gardening has an extensive list of plants that you can use to attract butterflies, which you can find here.
Some common varieties include:
- Bee Balm
- Butterfly Bush
- Black Eyed Susan
- Rose of Sharon
Strategically plant your garden to ensure that you have a number of plant varieties that will bloom at different times to ensure the longevity of your garden’s ability to attract and sustain butterfly life. Have flowers that will bloom throughout spring, summer, and even autumn, ensuring you always have colour to welcome butterflies. The Butterfly Project recommends grouping similar colours together instead of scattered throughout, since it has been observed that butterflies are more attracted to groups of similar colours; however, having a number of different colours scattered throughout your garden will not hinder butterflies either.
Feeding the Caterpillars
Over recent years, there has been a lot of coverage on the plight of the monarch butterfly. Its diminishing numbers is a concern for many, and there have been efforts made across North America to help our winged friends by planting their only host plant: milkweed.
Some other common host plants for butterflies include thistles, hollyhock, Shasta daisies, sunflowers; herbs such as parsley or dill; and trees, including willow, oak, tulip, and cherry.
If you’re looking to attract a particular species of butterfly, research that species to find out what host plant is required since each species has different host plant needs and wants. You can find a good start to this here!
Beyond the flowers, you can take steps to build an environment that butterflies can feed, live, and grow in. Like all living organisms, butterflies need water to survive. They don’t need a lot of water, but enough to collect minerals. Butterflies particularly like shallow sources and ones that are low to the ground, like puddles. Butterflies use a process of ‘puddling’ to gain minerals needed for survival and having a place with consistently moist sand and small rocks (perhaps in a small dish even with the ground) near plants and out of the wind will serve as terrific puddling stations.
The Highs and Lows
Butterflies also require shelter from strong winds; bushes and shrubs are a great way to provide sheltered space in your gardens. Planting lower lying flowers as well as higher flowers will also help butterflies find shelter from the wind throughout your entire garden.
Lastly, butterflies love to bask in the sun. Because they are cold blooded they cannot regulate their own body temperature, making them dependent on the sun to warm themselves and gain energy to fly. Have your butterfly garden in full sun, and think along the lines of reptiles – place some rocks throughout your garden on which butterflies can bask in the sun!
These are some ways you can begin to make a very butterfly-friendly garden, and there are a number of books and source out there that can help guide you! Planet Natural has a terrific article with a number of links to various articles related to all things butterflies – habits, behaviours, attracting butterflies, host plants, benefits of having butterflies, etc. To find this list, you can click here.
And as always, we here at Royal City Nursery are always happy to help with any questions you may have about butterflies, plants, and how to make your garden a haven for these beautiful creatures! Call us or stop by and visit us today!