Adding the beauty and color of butterflies to a landscape can be an enjoyable and educational experience. A successful butterfly garden is one that contains all the components that butterflies need for food, shelter and breeding, while providing all the beauty and design that appeal to the gardener.
Beckoning Butterflies to Your Yard
Butterflies can feed in shade, but they must have sun to keep their bodies warm enough to fly. Butterflies can only fly effectively when their body temperature is about 85 to 100F. When the air is cooler, they will bask in the sun to warm themselves to effective flight temperature.
If a yard is basically shady, butterflies can be attracted by putting some flat dark colored stones or evergreens in spots that get early morning sun. Watch the butterflies as they use the sun-warmed stones and evergreens to absorb heat and start flying earlier.
Build a butterfly garden in a location that is sheltered from the wind. This will help in two ways: butterflies are not cooled by breezes, and they do not have to expend extra energy fighting wind currents as they try to feed, mate and lay eggs. If possible, provide a windbreak with tall shrubs, vines and trees.
Flowers, Flowers Everywhere
Next, grow sweetly scented flowers that produce nectar. Flower nectar is a primary food source for most butterflies. Butterflies, like most birds, take nectar from a wide variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and herbs.
Be sure the garden offers nectar-producing flowers throughout the blooming season so that butterflies can always find food. Also, grow nectar plants of varying heights - smaller species of butterflies tend to stay low, while larger species prefer to stay high while feeding.
When planting flowers, be sure to provide a variety that will be available from early summer to late fall. Group them together - given a choice, butterflies usually choose those that are abundant. Some good plants to incorporate into a butterfly haven include buddleia, asters, globe thistles, phloxes, cone flowers, marigolds, black-eyed Susans, lantanas, zinnias, rudbeckias, salvias and butterfly weeds.
Water for Butterflies
Butterflies like to drink and obtain essential nutrients and minerals from the moist areas around puddled water. Streams, ponds and small shallow water basins, either natural or artificial, are necessary assets to a butterfly garden.
In addition to sweet nectar-producing plants, trees and flowers, Southern States carries brightly colored specialty butterfly feeders and sweet-tasting nectar, too.
When winter comes, some butterflies need to find a suitable place to hibernate. In addition to tree crevices, under bark or in log piles, a hibernation house can provide a perfect overwintering environment. Hibernation houses have narrow, vertical holes cut into them that are small enough to keep predators out, but large enough for butterflies to enter and leave. Always place a hibernation house in a shady area of the garden so that butterflies will not become overheated inside.
A Natural Garden
A natural setting is both attractive and essential to the butterflies' well-being. Pesticides and herbicides are not recommended for use in a butterfly garden.