Conservation Notes: Butterfly Gardening

05/19/2010 08:06

My mom and I made our annual trip to the local nursery this past weekend. As I was planting flowers, it got me thinking about butterflies and how I love the site of them fluttering around the yard. Do you want to attract and view the beauty of butterflies? Create a butterfly garden in your backyard. Follow these guidelines in creating a beautiful and friendly butterfly garden.

Create a butterfly garden that is alluring to butterflies by growing plants in various heights, a variety of flower colors and shapes, and different bloom times. Butterflies are attracted to yellow, orange, red and purple flowers. To attract a variety of butterflies, plant an array of plant species. Be sure to select plant species that are native to your area. When planting, it is best to add more than one of each plant species. Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Milkweed, Cardinal Flower, Cup Plant, Ironweed, Joe Pye Weed, Leadplant, New England Aster, Prairie Blazing Star, Purple Prairie Clover, Purple Coneflower, Sky Blue Aster, Spiderwort, Stiff Goldenrod, Swamp Milkweed, Wild Bergamot, Wild Columbine, and White Prairie Clover are great examples. Gardens should supply food for the life cycle of butterflies. As a bonus, native prairie plants also attract bees. Choose plants for nectar to provide adult butterflies with energy and host plants that will feed caterpillars. Butterfly host plants are important in creating a butterfly garden to provide a spot for a butterfly to lay eggs, as well as a food source for emerging catepillars. Female butterflies locate and lay eggs on the plant species the catepillar can use for food. Milkweed is commonly known as the host plant for Monarch Butterflies.
Species of trees and shrubs provide shelter for the butterflies to rest at night and protection from rain, wind and predators. Keep in mind native plant species that butterflies prefer when planting shrubs and trees. Shelter may also be provided by making or buying a butterfly house.
Sun is important in butterfly gardens. Butterflies are cold-blooded, so they often warm themselves in the morning sun. Locate your garden in a place where there is at least six hours of sunlight every day. Large rocks provide great warming surfaces for butterflies to rest.
Water is essential to butterflies. Shallow puddles and moist soil are great sources of water for butterflies. Dew, nectar, and tree sap also provide butterflies with moisture.

Do not use pesticides or herbicides in your garden. They are harmful to butterflies and other insects. Practice butterfly conservation to protect the habitat for the brilliantly colored and wondrous creatures. With good plant and site selection, a butterfly garden will be created to provide a microhabitat for a variety of butterflies to live and grow. Not only will the garden be pleasing to butterflies (and bees), but it will be attractive. For more information about butterflies and butterfly gardening, visit the North American Butterfly Association at

- Monica Stevens, Resource Conservationist