When creating a butterfly garden it is important to include two different types of plants. The first is the host plant where the butterfly will lay her eggs. Small caterpillars can not travel very far, so the butterfly will lay her eggs on the particular plant the young caterpillar likes to eat. Be prepared for your host plants to be well eaten by the caterpillar. You may in fact want to plant these in a seperate area, or more out of site if you don't like heavily eaten plants in your garden.
Different species of butterflies will use different plants as their host plants. Here are a few:
Black Swallowtail: dill, parsley,fennel, carrot
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: sycamore, willow
Painted Lady: Thistle, Hollyhock, Sunflower
Question Mark: Nettle, Hops, False Nettles, Elm
After happily munching on your host plants and turning into beautiful butterflies you will need Nectar plants for the butterflies to feed on. It is important to make sure you have a variety of nectar plants, and plan your planting so you will have blooms all summer long. It is especially important, if you want a multitude of butterflies, to make sure you have plenty of nectar plants in bloom during the late summer when butterflies are most prolific. Here are a few of the nectar plants, but there are many many to choose from:
Shrubs and trees:
Plum, Redbud, Blueberry, Butterfly Bush, Pear, Rose of Sharon, Spiraea
Annual butterfly flowers:
Cosmos, Impatiens, Marigold, Mexican sunflower, Nasturtium, Sunflower, Queen Anne's Lace, Zinnia
Wildflowers for butterflies:
Coneflower, Thistle, Spearmint, Verbena, Butterfly Weed
Perennial Butterfly Flowers:
Aster, Bee-balm, Black-eyed Susan, Shasta Daisy, Day Lilies, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Milkweed, Phlox, Sage, Sedum, Yarrow
There are so many choices it will be easy to find plants that both you and the butterflies will like. A couple things to keep in mind when planting and caring for your butterfly garden: Don't use pesticides. It will kill your butterflies. Plant tall plants in the middle or back of your garden and shorter plants in the front so you have a full view of all your lovely visitors. Make sure your garden gets a good 6 hours of sun daily. Butterfly houses and feeders can also make an attractive addition to your garden, giving butterflies additional food and shelter.
It's always nice to think of where you are putting your garden before you begin. Hopefully you can find a spot in your yard within view of a porch swing or lounge chair where you can watch your summer visitors as they flit about.