Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on Earth. Creating an inviting space for them involves planning your garden to attract, retain, and encourage butterfly populations to visit. Simply grow the plants the caterpillars like to eat, and plants that adult butterflies feed on for the nectar!
The Butterfly Life Cycle
Support the entire life cycle by providing the essential elements for each stage of a butterfly’s life. Adult butterflies lay their eggs on host plants, where the egg remains until the larva (or caterpillar) hatches and feeds on the plant …
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The caterpillar will then need a sheltered area, such as one with trees and shrubs where it can safely form a pupa, or chrysalis. At last it will emerge as a vibrant butterfly, when it will feed on a variety of nectar plants.
Zone 5 & 6 Butterflies
One of the most popular butterflies in Zone 5/6 is the monarch. In its larval or caterpillar stage, monarch butterflies rely on milkweed. In fact, it’s pretty much all they consume until they become adults and switch to drinking nectar from flowers …
Swallowtails use carrots, parsley, dill and fennel as larval food; and the buckeye butterfly uses the snapdragon. Many others butterflies choose common trees such as birch, poplar, ash and willow on which to lay their eggs.
When planning your butterfly garden, you need to think about the entire life cycle of the butterfly. Lack of food, predators, and climate issues can all kill a caterpillar long before it matures, but planning on your part can ensure far more make it to adulthood.
Don’t Use Pesticides
Never use insecticides as they kill both pests and butterflies. Try using other methods of pest control, such as soap sprays, removing the infected plants, or handpicking the offenders. Be sure to plan your flowers so something is always blooming to feed your colorful visitors …
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Butterflies need water, the warmth of the sun, and a shady spot to rest if they become too hot on warm days. Provide all this and your garden will become a sanctuary for the most glorious butterflies you can imagine, year after year.
Unlike most gardens, when you see something munching on your plants you’re doing a good job!
If you’re trying to attract a specific type of butterfly, research to see what they eat as caterpillars. Be sure to provide some low, bushy plants which some species use to hide during the day. If you don’t take care of the caterpillars there won’t be many butterflies!
Plant your butterfly garden in full sun – flowers that need a lot of sunlight attract more butterflies. Provide continuous blooms throughout the growing season. Butterflies are active from spring into late fall, but mid-to late-blooming season are when butterflies are most active in our area …
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A great addition to any butterfly garden are a few large rocks to provide a spot for your visitors to stop and rest their wings. Butterflies cannot control their body temperatures by themselves …
To help heat their bodies, butterflies open their wings and bask in the sun. Adding sunny spots to your garden provides a great opportunity to observe butterflies at rest …
Also include shallow watering areas. Many butterflies drink from moist soil or shallow puddles, sometimes forming large groups called puddle clubs. An easy way to do this is to take a flowerpot saucer, line with small pebbles or sand and fill with about an inch of water …
Here are the top Zone 5 & 6 flowers that attract butterflies:
Annuals For A Butterfly Garden:
New Guinea Impatiens
Nicotiana (flowering tobacco)
Perennials For A Butterfly Garden:
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Joe Pye Weed
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Sweet Violet (Viola)
Invite these magnificent “flying flowers” into your garden by offering water, sun, shelter, and host & nectar plants. You may find hummingbirds flocking to your garden as well …