“No Garden Has Truly Bloomed Until
Butterflies Have Danced Upon It.”K. D’Angelo
First things first. Before you can have butterflies, you need to have flowers. Your butterfly garden will be what attracts them as well as what feeds them. What kind of garden you plant depends on what you want to do. Do you only want to attract them to your area, or do you want to raise them, too?
If you just want to attract them, all you need are nectar flowers. These are the flowers that bring in the adult butterflies and provide them with much needed nectar.
If you want to raise monarchs, you must have milkweed. It is the only plant on which the females will lay eggs and the only thing the caterpillars will eat. Yes, they are picky eaters. There are over 100 different varieties of milkweed. You can Google what is appropriate for you area. They all have attractive flowers and some have a lovely fragrance. They are really an asset to any garden. Some are annuals and some are perennials. I do grow some non-native milkweed in my garden, but mostly because my butterflies seem to prefer it.
Find the best area in your yard for full sun. In general, butterfly flowers thrive in full sun. If you don’t have full sun, work with what you’ve got and choose flowers that can get by with less. We don’t have anyplace on our property with full sun, so I put my milkweed in the place with the highest amount and my nectar flowers in the other spots.
Your garden can be as large or small as you can manage. Even if you only have room for a pot of nectar flowers, use it. Every little bit helps.
If you’re planting perennials (flowers that come back every year), you can plant either spring or fall. Fall planting is great as the plant has time to establish the root system before spring. Also, many garden shops will put their perennial plants on sale in the fall, so you don’t spend as much. If you’re spring planting perennials, check you local areas for the best time to plant, usually as soon as you can work the soil.
If you’re planting annuals (plants that only bloom for one season), you will probably have to wait until the danger of frost has passed. Again, this may vary with where you live and what you’re planting.
The best butterfly gardens will have a mixture of both kinds.
Here are some favorite annuals:
- Zinnias – these are probably the top of the list for most butters
- Butterfly bush – these get BIG
- Bee Balm
- Joe Pye Weed