This is a great time of year to observe the graceful beauty of the butterflies. As I sit in my garden this week I am in wonder of their beautiful dance. Both the butterfly and hummingbird are out in record numbers this year in my gardens. I so enjoy watching them dance side by side in my plants.
If you want to “attract” these graceful creatures to your gardens, turning your yard into a nonstop butterfly bonanza, it just takes a few simple considerations in your design, practices, and plant selection. As the booming voice of James Earl Jones said in the movie, Field of Dreams…”If You Build It…They Will Come”! (love that movie)
There are essentially 4 simple elements to consider for a butterfly friendly garden: 1. Location 2. Plants 3. Water 4. Shelter.
Location: Although we often think of expansive sunny spots as butterfly magnets, a small garden plot or even containers can work. And mixed with a little shade…is a good thing as some types of butterflies prefer it. Keeping your location free of pesticides and herbicides will also prove valuable in supporting the life cycle. When preparing your areas use composting practices in your soil and mulch creating a rich environment for planting. When you do apply fertilizers use organically based products.
Plants: Most butterflies get the majority of their diet from nectar producing plants…so these should make up a large portion of your garden area. The bonus two-fer: you will also attract valuable bee pollinators and hummingbirds. Native plant varieties tend to draw the most butterflies according to butterfly experts and the additional two-fer on this: they require less care and tolerate our regional climate. Shrubs I like to use in our region include: Clethera, Hibiscus, rhododendron, spirea, and weigelia. Perennials I prefer include: cone flowers, astillbee, lavender, rudbeckia, sedum, daylilies and salvia. You will also want to consider host plants to support the butterfly life cycle. In other words, plant material you do not mind the caterpillars feasting on. These could include, milkweed, hollyhocks, violets, ash trees or willows.
Water: My water gardens are a great source for butterflies. The streams and shallow areas of our pondless features mimic natural areas from which butterflies sip their water.
Shelter: As butterflies are fragile creatures, something like a raindrop can seem more like a bowling ball to them. When inclement weather strikes, they seek shelter. Wooden butterfly houses are beautiful garden accents I place at the perimeter of my water gardens. Building them is a great kid-friendly project. Tall ornamental grasses and thick shrubbery can also provide the protective shelter during storms.
Location, plants water, shelter, add these elements to your garden and yes, the butterflies will come all season for your enjoyment!