It’s been said that you can chase a butterfly all over the field and never catch it. But if you sit quietly in the grass, it will come and sit on your shoulder, especially if you have their favorite plants growing in your garden. Here is a simple and enjoyable way to create your own backyard butterfly haven.
First, research which species are indigenous to your area. This determines which plants will supply their favorite food. Nectar-producing plants, or butterfly food, encourage a continuous succession of new visitors to your garden. It’s important to have these flowers in late summer, when most butterflies are active. Some popular choices include butterfly weed and butterfly bush; however, The United States Botanic Garden reports that butterfly bush is no longer recommended due to its invasive nature. For a list of nectar plants and what species they attract, click here.
Next, cultivate the soil to prepare for planting, dispersing flat rocks throughout the garden area. These serve as landing pads for butterflies to perch and warm their wings.
It’s best to select plants that bloom at different times, planting the tallest in the back of the garden near a fence or wall; medium plants in the center; and short plants in the front.
Note that our fluttery friends are also likely to land on or near the edges of shallow mud puddles or moist sandboxes. This could be as simple as filling a container with damp dirt or sand.
Remember to include host plants—the most well-known being milkweeds, recommended for monarchs—for caterpillars to eat and lay their eggs. For a list of host plants, click here.
Pesticides may be harmful to the butterflies, so it’s advised to use natural insecticidal soaps. Avoiding pesticides will make your garden more a friendly retreat for your newly welcomed visitors.