Butterflies are an important part of every ecosystem, because, second only to bees, they pollinate much of our harvests. All you need to get started are some butterfly-friendly plants to grow in your garden or in a planter or flower pot. Once the plants start blooming, you shouldn't have a long wait till the colorful insects come.
Your Own Butterfly Garden
All you need to develop a butterfly garden are nectar food for mature butterflies and larval food for caterpillars, wind shelter and water.
Observe the types of butterflies you see around, consult a guidebook or a website
To start a butterfly garden
Observe the types of butterflies you see living in your neighbourhood, consult a guidebook or website for further details. Next choose the site of your garden carefully. These colorful insects need sun and warmth, so pick a spot in your yard that gets natural light. The ideal garden will get the sun for at least 5 hours a day. Also, border a tree line, structure or hedge to provide shelter from the wind.
Basic elements of a butterfly garden
Plan to have blooming plants from late spring to early fall. Different species of butterflies have different preferences of nectar in both color and taste. They like sun favoring flowers that produce lots of pollen. They have sense receptors on their antennae and legs that allow them to smell flowers and other receptors in their feet that they use to taste the nectar. Flowers with bright colors like red, yellow and purple attract them. It is easier for them to notice large groupings of colors and shapes when planted together. Some common varieties of flowers include Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly weed, Daylilies, Goldenrod, Hibiscus, Lavender, Lilac, Marigold, Butterfly bush, Purple coneflower, Redbud, Rosemary, and Verbena. Some vegetable plants and herbs give butterflies a place to lay their eggs. So, in addition to dill and parsley, you may want to grow carrots, chives or sage. You will also need larval food for the caterpillars, such as the Milkweed, Wild lupine and Violets.
Include a few large stones in your garden to absorb heat and light, and provide a good resting place for the weary butterflies. Rotting fruits and tree sap are also great attractants to certain types of butterflies. Spread the concoction made from mixing rotten bananas, molasses, sugar, stale beer, and fruit juices all mixed in water, on stones
High and moderate winds are difficult for the butterflies to fly in, so an ideal garden should provide shelter from the wind. Consider planting bushes to help shelter your garden. A trellis covered with flowering vines or grapes will create a wind wall. Both of these shelter options will make your garden more attractive.
Make a little pool in the form of a mud puddle or put a container of water in your garden, and empty it regularly. Bury a clay pot at ground level, and fill it with sand and water. Lay sand along paths and beneath water fountains. The key to a good butterfly puddle is keeping the sand moist. You can increase its attractiveness by dissolving a spoonful of salt in the water you use to wet the sand or by adding a small amount of compost to the puddle. Add stones, twigs or shells on top of the sand to create perches for drinking butterflies.
Nectar flowers are food for butterflies, and providing them in abundance will ensure sustained presence of these vibrant insects in your garden. Another thing to keep in mind is that most perennials bloom only for a portion of the year, some only for a few weeks. Plan your garden to allow for a diverse group of perennials that bloom at different times so that there are always plentiful of them. Planting annuals (that bloom all season long) alongside perennials will ensure your garden is never without flowers.
Do not use insecticides. They will kill the butterflies and their caterpillars, as well as the pests you are trying to get rid of.
Don't be dismayed when you see that something is eating holes in the host plants. If you want to keep the half eaten leaves hidden, consider planting flowering annuals or other plants around the host plants to disguise them.