Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

Zebra Butterfly. Photograph by David Pape, released into the
Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons.
It's no surprise that butterfly gardening has become extremely popular in recent years. After all, what could bring more joy and beauty to your garden than a few of these lovely creatures?

If you want to attract butterflies to your garden this summer, there are a few things you'll need to keep in mind:

First of all consider your location. You'll need a spot that gets direct sunlight for at least 5 to 6 hours a day. You'll need a spot that's sheltered from strong winds. The addition of a few flat rocks to the area will make your garden particularly attractive to butterflies.

The Monarch Butterfly. Photograph by Richiebits, released
into the Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons.
The next thing you'll need to consider is food and water for your butterflies. Water is easily taken care of. If your garden doesn't already come equipped with a few mud puddles, they can easily be created. Just make sure to keep them damp, regardless of the weather. If you don't want to create a mud puddle, you can always fill a container with sand, and keep it moistened.

Food is another matter. You'll need to provide food for both the butterflies and their offspring. Plants that provide food for the adult butterflies are called nectar plants, and those that feed their babies are called host plants. You'll need both, if you want to have butterflies in your garden year after year.

The Black Swallowtail. Photograph by Ltshears, released into
the Public Domain on Wikimedia Commons.
To decide which plants to grow to please your butterflies, it's best to first find out which species are common to your area. There's a handy-dandy little chart available on the butterfly website (butterflywebsite.com), or you can just consult a book or the internet. In Michigan, where I live, for example, I've discovered that among the most common butterfly species are the Monarch, the Black Swallowtail, and the Zebra Butterflies -- all of which I've pictured on this page.

Good nectar plants for Michiganders would be Asters, Dogbane, Buddelia, Joe Pye Weed, Privet, and Blueberry. Good host plants would include Pawpaw, Milkweed, Parsley, Dill, and Fennel. Remember not to get upset when you see caterpillars eating your parsley! That's what it's there for.

Of course, t should go without saying that you won't be using pesticides on your butterfly garden.

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