Butterfly gardening is a great way not only to make your garden look beautiful but also to help pollinators across your region.
A healthy population of butterflies and bees is a reflection of the health of your landscape.
However, the decline of these species can be troubling.
Butterflies are not only fun to watch bi they also serve an important purpose as well.
Both butterflies and other pollinators like bees, moths, birds, etc help to pollinate about 75% of the flowering plants around the world.
For instance, domestic honey bees alone pollinate approximately $19 billion worth of crops in the U.S each year.
Moreover, you depend on what these pollinators do to help plants reproduce which in turn helps to strengthen the ecosystem and maintain life-sustaining biological diversity in nature.
Keep on reading to learn more about butterfly gardening in detail.
Importance of Butterfly Gardening
Habitat loss is one of the main contributors to the decline in the population of pollinators.
Moreover, much of this loss is attributed to converting agriculture to resource extraction and urban development.
This affects the pollinators negatively when large areas of habitats break down into isolated patches by such development.
Furthermore, these habitat fragments do not provide enough food, shelter, and safety that these species need to survive.
However, there is a way to reverse such trends.
You can create your own backyard pollinator habitat.
Constructing your own pollinator garden helps to provide food as well as a place for these small creatures to live.
Furthermore, pollinators need all the help they can get and your garden can make a huge difference.
Thus, whether you live in a rural, suburban, or urban area, you can help protect the environment and add beauty to the surroundings.
However, make sure to have plants that are native to your region in order to have the most effective and productive garden.
Another benefit is that this is a family activity and a great way to help your kids see that they can make a difference in the environment.
Learn more about Nectar-Producing Plants here.
Butterfly Gardening: Creating one Yourself
Creating a hospitable environment will help butterflies to stay around long enough to lay eggs for a new generation.
Proving the basics of shelter, water, and food, including butterfly-friendly plants, you can provide a great chance for them to thrive and reproduce.
Follow the steps below to create your butterfly garden:
Make a Plan: Determine which species you will want to attract and are most likely to be in your area.
Moreover, make a list of plants that will help support these particular butterflies.
Choose a suitable area in your yard and draw a rough sketch that includes basic components, butterflies will need.
Provide Food: Adult butterflies will rely on liquid food sources.
They tend to drink through a long tubular tongue that uncoils to sip liquid. Additionally, to flower nectar, they also consume tree sap, pollen, fallen fruit, and animal dung.
Moreover, butterfly larvae have chewing mouthparts and feed on leafy food plants like milkweed foliage, parsley, and fennel.
Create a Shelter: In order to protect the butterflies, site trees and shrubs where they can provide windbreak and a place out of the rain.
These plants can also provide places for butterflies to roost at night or hide from predators.
Another source of shelter you can add is a log pile, which you can high ut of sight in a secluded corner of your yard.
Offer Water: Shallow puddles or moist sandy areas are preferences of butterflies which also provides salts and essential minerlas.
Furthermore, set out a birdbath or plant saucer with water and rocks where they can perch.
You can also place a visible spot and make sure to change the water frequently.
Other Factors to Consider
Keep it Sunny: Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that will be less active on colder mornings.
Therefore, make sure to start butterfly gardening where it receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Make sure there is a spot where sunlight hits early in the day so that they can warm up quickly. You can add pavement, rocks, or exposed soil to absorb heat and will also provide additional warmth.
Place in Drifts: Group the same plants in drifts of 3 to 5so that butterflies can spot the larger swaths of color.
Selecting Butterfly-Friendly Plants
While a number of flowers will attract butterflies, some are better sources of nutrients than others.
The relationship between butterflies and beneficial plants evolved naturally over thousands of years in order to best ensure their survival.
As a result, the kinds of plants that can help support butterfly species are limited and vary by region.
Nectar Plants vs. Caterpillar Host Plants
Make sure to add plants that will help support butterflies throughout their life cycle.
Moreover, flowering nectar plants offer food and energy for adults while the leaves of larval plants like parsley and milkweed nourish growing caterpillars.
Plants will provide both nectar sources for butterflies and caterpillar food for smaller spaces.
Plant for Diversity
Make sure to choose a mix of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals.
Create layers for butterflies to discover nectar sources at different levels.
Include varieties that are native to your region. These will be plants the butterflies will be most accustomed to feeding on.
Choose flowering plants that bloom at different times throughout the growing season, especially in mid to late summer when butterflies are most active.
Furthermore, add fall bloomers, like aster, goldenrod, and Joe Pye weed to support migrating monarch butterflies.
Add Plants to Color
Butterflies are most attracted to flowers in colors of pink, red, orange, white, yellow, and purple.
Caterpillar Food in Butterfly Gardening
Adult butterflies live for only a few weeks and in most cases, they spend time mating and laying eggs.
To encourage them to carry out their whole life cycle in your yard, you can provide not only nectar plants for the adults but also host plants on which they can lay eggs and larval food for emerging caterpillars.
Moreover, butterflies like an untidy, natural environment, and many of the best plants for feeding larvae are mild.
Milkweed, thistle, willow, stinging nettle, violets, mustards, white clover, blueberries, and wild cheery can provide food for caterpillars.
A good butterfly book can help to identify butterflies in your yard, and also help to learn their preferred larvae food.
A Word on Milkweed and Monarchs
The leaves of a milkweed species are the only food that the caterpillars of butterflies can eat.
However, due to widespread pesticide use, wild-growing milkweed is disappearing.
Moreover, there is a decrease of 90% in the monarch population over the last 2 decades.
The good news, however, is that you can plant milkweed for monarch butterflies.
The best time to plant milkweed is in the fall, which also aligns with Mother Nature.
In the wild, milkweed plants scatter their seeds late in the season.
You can scratch the milkweed seeds and plant them directly into the soil during the fall.
Then the next year in early summer, make sure to keep a sharp outlook for the newly emerging seedlings.
Furthermore, it is important to water them regularly until they are well established.
The nectar in all milkweed flowers prides valuable food for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators as well.
Butterflies need Nectar Flowers
The best flowers for butterfly gardening are the ones that are made of multiple tiny blossoms like yarrow, lilacs, phlox, buddleia, goldenrod, or Queen Anne’s Lace.
Also good are composite flowers like:
Moreover, butterflies gather nectar with their tube-like proboscis, which is coiled when they are not using it, so flowers with tubular shapes like a bee balm, honeysuckle, or columbine also attract them.
They have an acute sense of smell that uses chemical receptors in tongues, antennae, and feet.
Heavy perfume is also appealing to butterflies, so you can plant strong-scented, old-fashioned flowers rather than hybrids that may lack the fragrances of their heirloom parents.
Furthermore, to attract butterflies you will need to provide the basics of water, shelter, sunny open spots, and lots of flowers.
Color and fragrance, both lures and the shape of the flowers are even more important than the color, according to experts.
Larger butterflies, however, have long legs and need a platform to land on.
Also, a mud puddle is an ideal watering hole for your butterflies.
It is important to note that spiders, rodents, birds, and snakes along with viruses and other diseases can take a toll on butterfly populations.
However, humans are their number one enemy.
Destruction of habitat leads to the decline and even extinction of certain species and the widespread use of herbicides and pesticides is lethal to the population of butterflies.
To prevent the inadvertent killing of butterflies, avoid using chemical pesticides or even bacterial weapons.
Wrapping it Up
Colorful butterflies add beauty, color, life, and interest to your backyard, Other than monarchs, there are over 150 different butterfly species that you can have.
With little extra planning and proper plant selection, you can increase the number and a variety of butterflies in your yard.
Read more on balcony garden in this article.