The warmth of spring and summer brings out droves of beautiful butterflies. Drawing these eye-catching insects to your yard not only makes it more attractive but also allows plants to benefit from the presence of friendly pollinators. Make these delicate guests feel at home by planting the perfect butterfly garden.
Gardening for butterflies means banishing chemicals from the entire lawn. Spraying pesticides and herbicides or using harsh fertilizers can harm or kill both butterflies and the food sources their larvae rely on. To create a hospitable landscape, switch to alternative methods of pest and weed control before beginning to plant your butterfly garden. Instead of using pesticides consider natural pest predators such as ladybugs and green lacewings, or plant repellent herbs like mint and rosemary. To control weeds in and around your garden, mulch with compost or hay.
Get the Right Host Plants
A “host plant” is where butterflies lay their eggs, and each species prefers different types. Milkweed is good for monarchs; black swallowtail enjoy parsley, fennel and dill; and painted lady larvae feed on thistle, hollyhock and sunflower. Research the kinds of butterflies native to your area, and choose appropriate host plants to give them a place to start the next generation.
Feed Your Fluttering Friends
Think of nectar plants as a butterfly buffet where all types of butterflies come to eat. As with host plants, different species prefer different varieties. Choosing many types of plants will attract a wide range of butterflies and create a garden with eye-catching splashes of color.
For the greatest diversity, include plants such as:
• Bee balm
• Black-eyed Susan
All of these plants appeal to many species of butterflies, where a colorful array of species can come to enjoy.
Balance Shade and Sun
When gardening for butterflies, you need to provide both sunlight and shady areas. Cold-blooded butterflies enjoy perching on plants to warm themselves during the day, but they also want to feel safe. Choose an spot in the yard where the sun shines brightly for about six hours every day, and plant a few bushes and small trees in among the flowers. Place dishes of wet sand in the shade to provide “watering holes” in sheltered spaces.
Plan and Plant
Visualize your garden on paper before planting, placing flowers of like colors together in clumps. This may look “messy” to the human eye, but to butterflies it’s just right. These insects are attracted to bright colors, and placing vibrant flowers together is like hanging a neon sign advertising your garden as the place to be. Use the opportunity to get creative with color balance and experiment with new types of plants.
With your butterfly garden in place, you can sit back and watch the different species go through their life cycles year after year. There’s something special about watching the process come full circle from larvae to pupae to adult. Nurture your garden and expand it over time to attract even more diverse species.
The Manor Golf & Country Club is a family-friendly development in Milton, Ga.
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