Attracting butterflies means offering plants that provide for all of their life stages: a place for the insect to lay eggs, food for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nourishment for adults.
Check butterfly identification websites to learn which butterflies are native to your area. Understand what their larvae look like.
Go for Growing Nectar-rich Flowers
Butterflies thrive on nectar, so choose nectar-rich plants that are native to your neighborhood. Check the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website for recommended native plants for your area.
Red, yellow, pink and purple are blossom colors most attractive to butterflies. Oftentimes, wildflowers and old-fashioned flowers are recommended. Here are some examples:
- Butterfly bush
- Queen Anne’s lace
- Shasta daisy
Consider planting a variety of annuals, perennials and shrubs, so you’ll have nectar throughout the growing season. This will provide food to butterflies throughout their adult life span.
Offer butterflies food and water in addition to the nectar-laden plants. Butterfly feeders are akin to a miniature version of a hummingbird feeder. They are easy to make and you’ll find lots of instructions for them online. They can be made with baby food jars or regular sized Mason jars. The nectar you supply is a diluted version of the nectar for hummingbird feeders.
Provide water to the butterflies in the form of a birdbath or rain bin. Water fountains are another obvious source, as long as they don’t contain chemicals to keep moss from growing in the water.
Butterflies have a curious habit called “puddling.” They gather on wet sand or mud to extract the water. To provide them with this environment, put coarse sand in a shallow pan and place it where you want butterflies to congregate. Be sure to routinely water the sand.
Feed the Caterpillars, Too
In order to have butterflies in your garden, you must welcome their predecessor: the caterpillar. The best way to do this is to offer a variety of native plants that attract them.
Again, research is the best way to determine which plants are native to your area, and of those, which are most effective at attracting butterfly caterpillars. The majority of butterfly caterpillars do not cause the leaf damage caused by some moth caterpillars, including tent caterpillars, bagworms and gypsy moths.
Provide them with a Sunny Rest Stop
Have you ever seen a butterfly bask in a sunny spot? They are doing more than just resting. Butterflies use the sun to warm their wings before flight, and also as a compass for direction. So create resting spots for them with flat stones, and make sure they are in sunny locations; butterflies rarely linger in shady areas.
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