Creating butterfly habitats is a growing practice for many gardeners. The benefits include a garden with beautiful and diverse plants. As well as, giving our gorgeous insect pollinators a wonderful place to live and feel safe.
Like the rest of us, butterflies need three basic elements to survive… food, water and shelter.
Butterfly feeders, similar to hummingbird feeders can be bought and filled with nectar, but most gardeners choose to use a variety of plants to attract them. And don’t forget the caterpillars! Certain caterpillars will only eat off of specific host plants. For instance, the Monarch caterpillar solely eats milkweed. While the Painted Lady caterpillar dines only on thistle, hollyhock and sunflowers. Both these species eat from many more plant varieties when adult butterflies.
The good news is butterfly gardening doesn’t have to get that complicated. If you choose to keep it simple, here is a list of some good ‘general’ butterfly-friendly plants to consider…
Asters, Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush, Bergamot (Bee Balm), Cardinal Flowers, Clovers, Golden Rod, Milkweeds, Purple Coneflowers, Sunflowers, and Zinnias to name a few.
All that flying around and sweet nectar can make a butterfly thirsty! Providing water is important for the well-being of your garden guests. Creating small mud puddles is an easy way to provide water. Filling a plant saucer with sand and water is also a good way to provide a place to drink and helps the butterflies get the salts they need.
Finally, you will need to provide shelter from the elements. Butterfly houses can be purchased at most garden centers and provide safe havens to get out of a rain storm or seek shade from the heat. When the weather is cold, placing stones in a sunny spot is a wonderful way for the insects to sit and warm themselves.
The delicate wings of the butterfly are no match for gusty winds. Try and build your habitat in a spot that will be protected from the wind, or build a windbreak using fencing or trellises. Of course planting butterfly-friendly shrubs and trees as a windbreak is the best of both worlds! Here is a short list of some great options… Spirea, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Privets, Sumac, Weigela, and Potentilla.
Creating butterfly gardens is exciting and fun. If you plant it – they will come!