A butterfly habitat is easy to create and you may already have some of the growing conditions in your yard that butterflies love. They need sun, flowers that produce nectar, a place to rest, water, and shelter from wind and rain.
Butterflies love open meadows so the field, or boulevard, or park that is near your house already provides some of a butterfly’s needs, but you can encourage them into your yard by providing some of the other things they like.
Mud puddles are a natural part of a butterfly habitat, but a shallow dish or a bird bath with a flat rock in it will create a good water source and a resting place, too.
Butterflies are nectar eaters so many of the same plants that attract hummingbirds will also attract butterflies. The difference is hummingbirds are attracted to color. Butterflies like color, but fragrance is probably even more important.
They are also attracted to flowers that have flat or clustered surfaces to land on. If possible try to include native plants in your butterfly habitat. A few to include are milkweed, butterfly plant, Joe pye weed, goldenrod, and New England asters.
Butterflies have a life cycle that includes four stages: larva (egg), pupa (caterpillar), chrysalis, and butterfly. If you provide the appropriate butterfly habitat in your yard, you’ll be able to observe all four stages.
Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, or butterfly weed. Swallowtails lay eggs on dill, parsley, or fennel.
Painted Ladies like hollyhock, mallow, and borage.
Obviously there are many, many more kinds of butterflies but providing the habitat for these will also provide habitat for others.
If your garden is informal you won’t notice the holes in the leaves that the caterpillars create and you might be more likely to have the native plants that the caterpillars like.
Even if your garden is formal, butterflies will visit it if you have the nectar plants that they love. Interestingly enough, the nectar plants in a butterfly habitat are not necessarily the same ones that the caterpillars like to eat the leaves of.
Perennials that attract butterflies include yarrow, daisies, coreopsis, coneflowers, phlox, blanket flower, liatris, bee balm, black eyed Susan’s, rudbeckia, stonecrop, veronica, and goldenrod.
Annuals that would complement a butterfly habitat include sunflowers, snapdragons, cosmos, cleome, lantana, verbena and zinnias.
Herbs to include are anise hyssop, borage, chives, dill, parsley, fennel and catmint.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a larval host for black swallowtails so plant some extra in your garden if you want some for yourself!
These lists are not comprehensive, but they do provide a diversity of plant heights and blooming times so that your butterfly habitat is in bloom throughout the whole summer season which will give you more opportunity to attract a variety of butterflies.
Shelter and protection from wind and rain are also important in creating a butterfly habitat, but again you might already have these things. Grasses, shrubs and vines all provide these things and if you choose ones that also provide nectar so much the better. Some good choices include lilac, butterfly bush, willows, privet, and dogwood.
You cannot use pesticides in a butterfly habitat because even though there will be undesirable insects, pesticides are not discriminate and will kill your butterflies, too. Instead try using insecticidal soaps, traps, or hand pick insects if necessary.
Despite the Japanese Beetles, which have been very annoying, this year has been a great year for butterflies. As you can see in the pictures below my phlox has been very popular.
I only have a small suburban garden, but between my grandson and I, we have raised and released 15 butterflies this summer. The picture below is two monarchs that I released yesterday.
Good luck creating your own butterfly habitat and thanks for gardening with Julie
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