Animals, Backyard Habitats, Colors, Flowers, Gardening, Plants, The Art of Ecology, Wildlife Behavior

Butterflies: How to Add Extra Color to Your Garden

The American Lady Butterfly's identifying mark is the one white spot on the orange of the upper wing. They are small and love summer flowers!
The American Lady Butterfly’s identifying mark is the one white spot on the orange of the upper wing. They are small and love summer flowers!

Gardening season is upon us! I for one absolutely love having as much color surrounding me as possible, so naturally, I plant a variety of vividly colored flowering plants, but why stop there? Why not garden for vividly colored wildlife as well?

Butterflies, even the caterpillars, are vital parts of the ecosystem and making your garden attractive to them is important to help maintain their populations. By making our gardens attractive to the adult butterflies they’ll want to not only pollinate our plants but lay their eggs there as well!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars love Cherry trees,  Willows, Tulip Poplars, Birches, and Ash trees while the adult butterfly likes Lilacs, various milkweeds, Joe Pye weed, and even some types of flowering trees like Cherry!
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars love Cherry trees, Willows, Tulip Poplars, Birches, and Ash trees while the adult butterfly likes Lilacs, various milkweeds, Joe Pye weed, and even some types of flowering trees like Cherry!

With over 120 different species, chances are that you could have quite a variety of fluttering animals (maybe with all of your attractive plants you’ll start seeing more hummingbirds too!) visiting your flowers. In order to attract butterflies, you’ll want these 5 (kind of 6) basic things:

  1. Caterpillar plants – Make sure that there are plants that the babies will want! Caterpillars eat leaves, while the adults rely on nectar and minerals, so naturally the plants that the different stages rely on are different. Click here for a list of good caterpillar plants.
  2. Butterfly plants – Here’s a hint… Plant colors that butterflies like! They are drawn to shades and hues of red. Purples, pinks and oranges are great as well! Since the adults like to land on top of the flowers, their favorite style of flower will be one that is flat topped with short flower tubes.
  3. Organic Gardening Methods – Forget the pesticides and insecticides! Most products don’t really discriminate between the good and the bad bugs, so in order to protect the butterflies, avoid the pesticides all together. Also, some herbicides kill caterpillar host plants and if there’s no baby caterpillars, there won’t be adult butterflies. Companion planting (putting a plant next to another plant that deters pests – ie. Deer don’t like Marigolds) is a great idea, as is using biological pest controllers such as Praying Mantises and Ladybugs. 
  4. monarch butterfly on zinnia
    Monarch Butterflies are always exciting to see! The caterpillars solely rely on milkweed, so with the loss of caterpillar habitat, Monarch populations declined. Planting Milkweed in your garden/open spaces will help restore their population!

    Sun – These poor cold-blooded critters rely on the sun to warm them up! Make sure that your butterfly garden gets enough sun to keep their bodies moving.

    1. Rocks – This can go hand in hand with sun… Rocks absorb heat, so butterflies can land on these, spread out their wings and bask in the wonderful microclimate of that rock. Fortunately, rocks also provide another resource! Butterflies do something called “Puddling” where they will land on a nice moist area and “lick” the ground. They are actually getting valuable minerals from the ground and rocks. Having rocks that will regularly collect water or rain is a great way to provide a non-plant resource.
  5. Sustainability – In order to keep your new friends coming back year after year, you will want to make sure that there are good plants growing and blooming in each season.

With the weather and native plants on your side, hopefully you’ll have a busy garden that’s full of life this year! Don’t have the space for garden and wish you did so that you could see these beauties or simply love their unique wings? Don’t worry! Bring them inside with any one of these photos. Simply visit my Product page or Etsy store to bring their vibrant colors inside.

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