Lifestyles
Creating a butterfly garden
By Beverly Luxton, Grayson County Master Gardener Intern
Aug 27, 2019
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It is natural to want to invite these winged jewels into our gardens! Fill your garden with the flowers and the host plants that butterflies love, and they will keep coming back for more.

Begin planning your garden by determining what butterfly species exist in your area, then select the types of plants that are most likely to draw the species in. Choose native plants whenever possible.

Food is a key factor in creating a successful butterfly garden. An assortment of nectar plants lures the butterflies in, and host plants encourage them to linger and lay their eggs.

Brightly hued and fragrant flowers loaded with nectar are among the mainstays of an adult butterfly’s diet and are superior choices for a butterfly-friendly garden. Butterflies will feed on nectar from a wide variety of annuals, perennials, vines, and shrubs. A few popular choices include: Cosmos, Pentas, Tropical Butterfly Weed, Lantana, Gregg’s Mist Flower, Coneflower, Butterfly Bush, and Honeysuckle. Butterflies appreciate blooms with flat surfaces and open shapes that will offer them an easy place to land and to best access nectar.

Caterpillars have a select diet and prefer specific host plants. Butterfly larvae develop as they feed on a host plant. Favorite host plants, such as milkweed, dill, fennel, parsley, and pipevine sustain various butterfly species.

Butterflies, being cold-blooded, cannot regulate their body temperature and will seek out the warmest part of the garden. Grow flowers in sunny, sheltered areas. Try to locate the garden so that it will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.  One or two large, flat stones will provide sunny perches for the fliers to warm their wings. Butterflies find it difficult to fly on windy days – siting the garden in a protected place allows the butterflies to conserve energy. In nature, butterflies sip moisture from mud puddles. In the garden, chipped china saucers and shallow platters placed here and there create pretty water sources.

There is no place for pesticides and herbicides in a butterfly garden. Butterflies are very vulnerable to the toxic effects of chemicals. Environmentally friendly gardening can make a big difference to these fragile beauties.

Not only are butterflies beautiful to view, but since they are pollinators, they are important to our ecosystem. With a little imagination you can create an ideal habitat for these lovely creatures. Once you start attracting butterflies to your garden you will never want them to leave!