“Butterflies are self propelled flowers.” ~R.H. Heinlein
There is nothing more glorious than seeing the first butterfly flutter into your garden. There is an element of grace and beauty that butterflies add to the landscape and most people would love to have more of them. Not only are butterflies esthetically beautiful, they are also functional in the garden setting itself as natural predators and pollinators.
How to Attract More Butterflies
The million dollar question is, “How do I attract more butterflies?” The best answer is that we must create a welcoming garden area for these winged beauties, one that provides all they need to survive. Sometimes our gardens are lacking in the right varieties of plants or the layout or location is just not conducive to attracting butterflies. Here are just five ways that you can create a a beautiful butterfly garden that will be inviting and sustainable.
1. Garden Location: Butterflies love the sun, so planting a shade garden is not the best approach. When planning your butterfly garden, be sure to find a place that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. In addition to planting your garden in the sun, provide places in the garden where butterflies can sit and enjoy the reflective warmth of the sun. Good choices include rocks or logs. Butterflies will land on them, spread their wings in the sun and gather energy like a solar light would. Creating a rock border around your garden is a great idea.
2. Puddling: Many people many not be aware of this but butterflies gather in muddy puddles for a reason. The minerals in the soil are essential to their survival and when they sit in a muddy puddle, they absorb these minerals. A very shallow baking pan works great as a puddling basin. Put a little bit of sand and table salt in the bottom of the pie pan and add just enough water to max the mixture damp. Be sure that the sand mixture is moist at all times so that they butterflies will have plenty of minerals and moisture.
3. Food Producing Flowers: Butterflies are attracted to a mixture of nectar-rich annuals, perennials and shrubs that will bloom all season long. By choosing the right combination of plants, your garden can be in bloom from early spring, well into fall. This will not only attract butterflies but also keep them around. Butterflies like plants with bright blooms such as butterfly bush, anise hyssop, lantana, passion flower, butterfly weed, salvia, coneflower and asters. If your garden space is large enough, incorporate a nectar rich tree like a willow. This will provide food and shelter for your winged friends. If you are unsure about the best plants for your region, check with your local Cooperative Extension Department, they will be able to provide you with a list.
4.Container Gardens: You don’t have to feel limited if you are short on space. A container garden on a balcony or deck is a great way to attract butterflies. Flowers such a pholx, pansies and coneflowers are all suitable for containers and are also desirable to butterflies. Arrange several pots, of varying heights together and provide a tin for puddling and some rocks and you have an instant balcony butterfly habitat.
5. Keep Your Garden Healthy: If you want to create a butterfly magnet, you have to keep up on your garden. Plants that are untended do not bloom as profusely and send a signal to the butterflies that they are unhealthy. Dead-head your plants and provide a layer of organic mulch to ensure that your flowers thrive. With a little attention, your garden will be spectacularly beautiful and be graced by a host of winged visitors.
This post is adapted from the April 19, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes April 19, 2014. You can find this segment during Hour One of the podcast.