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How to Design a Butterfly Garden

There is something magical about butterflies visiting the garden. But not only is it pleasing to the eye, attracting butterflies (and their caterpillars) is an important part of our ecosystem and plant pollination. We can help these beneficial insects by creating a butterfly garden to attract and entice these beautiful creatures. Or at the very least, we can choose to plant a few of their favorite plants in hopes they visit often.

Butterflies use plants that both provide nectar for the adults to eat (nectar plants) and provide food for their caterpillars (host plants). There are many types of plants that will provide nectar to butterflies, but the best butterfly gardens provide various options for the butterfly to feed, lay eggs and complete their life cycle. In addition, certain butterflies and their caterpillars prefer certain plants over others.

Here are a few of the more common butterflies found in Port Washington, along with their preferred caterpillar host plant and nectar source plants:

  • Monarch (orange & black): Caterpillar - Milkweed; Butterfly - Lantana, Buddleia

  • Cabbage Sulphur (small and white): Caterpillar - Cabbage, Broccoli; Butterfly - Asters, Mustards

  • Painted Lady (brown and orange): Caterpillar - Thistle, Daisy; Butterfly - Zinnia, Marigolds

  • Black Swallowtail: Caterpillar - Carrots, Dill, Parsley; Butterfly - Monarda, Coneflower

Generally speaking, butterflies prefer flowers that are orange, yellow, pink or purple and have either clusters of flowers or a flat-top flower which provide a large landing pad to collect nectar. Some of these favorites include zinnias, lantana, milkweed and buddleia. It’s also important to plant varying heights of flowers, since some butterflies prefer tall flowers like Joe Pye weed and others prefer flowers closer to the ground like sweet william and asters.

A butterfly garden should be placed in a very sunny spot both for the plants and for the butterflies. Butterflies are cold-blooded and they often bask in the morning sun on flat stones or fence posts to warm up and prefer to feed when the sun is shining. Their preferred nectar rich plants also require in full sun conditions (6-8 hours of sun).

Most pesticides, even organic ones, will harm or kill butterflies (as well as other beneficial pollinators). Non pesticide insect controls like blasting with a hose or hand-picking/squishing is the least harmful. Whatever you choose, the best pest control methods should be used only to treat a problem, not used as a preventative.

A butterfly garden, a container filled with nectar-rich flowers or even just a few native plants will attract more butterflies and help them live out their lifecycle.

If you're looking for help with designing a beautiful garden that attracts butterflies, reach out and let's set up a FREE consultation call. You can do so by clicking HERE.


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