by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Welcome butterflies to stay in your garden for every stage of their development. Develop places for sunning, laying eggs, plant host plants for hungry caterpillars, add water sources and a safe place for metamorphosis.
Most flowers or plants that attract butterflies need about 6 hours of sunlight each day. A butterflies thin wings will appreciate a place that is sheltered from the wind. Each specie lays it’s eggs on a host plant that it prefers. It is easy to see an adult fly from flower to flower eating nectar, but it is not so easy to watch a caterpillar feed because they only prefer certain plants. Caterpillar cuisine includes white clover, milkweed, fennel, dill and parsley.
A variety of butterflies can be lured to your garden by planting an assortment of bright colored flowers that produce nectar throughout the season. Choose plants with bloom colors of orange, pink, yellow, purple and red. Some of those would be alyssum, butterfly bush, purple coneflower, globe amaranth, nicotiana, salvia, mexican sunflower, lantana, joe pye weed and zinnia.
Butterflies tend to be more attracted to large displays of single colors, such as sunflowers, black eyed Susans, globe thistle, phlox and yarrow. Planting milkweeds on your property will provide food plants for monarch caterpillars and a nectar source for the adult butterflies. Let nature take it’s course. Keep the plants that work for you, move or pull the ones that don’t.
Butterflies tend to prefer water sources such as a shallow pot filled with sand and a small amount of water placed in your flower bed.
You can attract butterflies even if you have a small space to garden in. The above mentioned flowers can be planted into containers that will work just as well.
Involve children in your butterfly gardening. It doesn’t take much to interest a child in gardening than to watch a colorful butterfly in flight. Their appreciation for plants will follow with an explanation of the butterflies life cycle. I like to think that a garden grows by trial, there are not any errors-only opportunities for learning, evolving and getting better every year. Have fun with it!
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online on The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can also be reached at 499- 6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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