Butterfly Garden

    • Mother’s Day is the perfect time to give a gift of a living plant. Rhododendrons, lilacs, hanging fuchsias and ivy geraniums are sure to please her.
    • It’s time to put out oriole feeders. You can also attract them with fresh orange halves.
    • Flower seeds can be sown directly in the garden now. Cosmos, marigolds and zinnias will give you beautiful flowers all summer.
    • Feed roses to encourage a beautiful display of color later this month. Treat plants to prevent insect and disease problems.
    • Plant the vegetable garden this month, but remember that late frosts can still nip tender young plants.

Butterfly Garden

One of the joys of summer is watching the butterflies visit your garden. You’ll enjoy them even more by planting flowers that they like to visit.

The main food of adult butterflies is flower nectar. Some flowers contain more nectar, and are more appealing to butterflies than others.

Nectar plants should be of various heights, because smaller species of butterflies often stay low, while larger species often prefer to stay high when feeding. When planning a garden, plant several of each flower species to attract butterflies and nectar bearing flowers that bloom in sequence over a long season.

Nectar plants can be perennials, annuals or shrubs. Lilacs and the native Ceanothus are among the earliest plants which will attract butterflies. Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) has graceful plumes of purple flowers that bloom in the summer. Bluebeard (Caryopteris) blooms from late summer into the fall with its lovely sky-blue flowers.

There are many perennials that provide nectar. Spring-bloomers include purple rock cress (Aubrieta), chives and forget-me-nots. There are numerous summer-blooming perennials that attract butterflies. The daisy family provides a lot of them with Gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia), coreopsis, Shasta daisies, blanket flower (Gaillardia) and purple coneflower (Echinacea). Sunflowers, with their many color choices, will give you some tall plants for the back of the border.

Other good choices are bee balm (Monarda), butterfly weed (Asclepias), lavender, gay-feather (Liatris), pincushion flowers (Scabiosa) and summer phlox. Yarrows (Achillea), catnip, verbena and red valerian (Centranthus) will also attract butterflies.

You can fill in the flower bed with annuals like marigolds, ageratum, cosmos, heliotrope, verbena and zinnias. These can give you varying heights and flowers over a long season.

For the end of the season, asters like Michaelmas daisy and showy sedum (Sedum spectabilis) will provide nectar for the last generation of butterflies.

There are many more plants which are attractive to butterflies and part of the fun of ‘butterfly gardening’ is experimenting and seeing who comes to dinner.

Although nectar sources alone may attract butterflies, only the planting of caterpillar host plants defines true butterfly gardening. They provide a site for the butterfly to lay eggs and also a food source for the emerging caterpillars. In most cases, they won’t be interested in your shrubs or flowers. They would rather eat plants like clover, plantain, parsley and dill or the leaves of birch and willow trees. Be prepared for heavy munching on your host plants!

Use insecticides sparingly because most garden insecticides can kill the caterpillar stages of the insects. Adult butterflies also can be killed by resting on insecticide-treated surfaces.

You will also want some still water for butterflies to drink.  A birdbath can often give a butterfly a necessary drink.  Swallowtails will often congregate around wet gravel.

The butterfly garden is wonderful fun for kids and adults alike.

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