A Butterfly Garden for the Landscape

A Butterfly Garden for the Landscape
America’s love affair with butterflies never seems to end. You can now visit special butterfly houses year-round in the east from Niagara Falls to Florida.

In these houses, the butterflies are carefully nurtured and provided with the nectar plants they need.

You can attract many common butterflies to your landscape by planting their favorite nectar plants.

Choose a sunny spot for a butterfly garden as they need sufficient warmth to maintain their activities. If possible, choose a garden spot near a rock wall or stone path. These stone surfaces give them a place to sunbathe.

Of all the nectar plants, the common butterfly bush, hardy in zones 5-9, is probably their all-time favorite. Some of their early spring nectar sources include shrubs like lilacs and rhododendrons, which provide the butterflies with much needed food after they emerge from winter hibernation. I like to plant this as an informal hedge along the property line.

In addition to the ordinary, purple-flowering butterfly bush, there are many varieties available as well, including white-flowering ones. For small landscapes, the dwarf types are a good choice.

Butterflies are particularly fond of lantanas, which are evergreen shrubs when grown in zones 8-10. In other regions, this is often grown as an annual bedding plant or container plant. This plant is sure to attract butterflies to the landscape.

Of the other annual nectar plants, ageratum, dahlia, cornflower, cosmos, and sunflowers are sure-fire favorites. These can be used in flower beds, and borders. If you have limited space in your landscape, try growing dwarf dahlias and sunflowers in pots.

Concerning perennials, a great favorite is the purple coneflower, with others ranking high including most mums, coreopsis, cardinal flower, and summer phlox.

Besides nectar plants, butterflies really appreciate puddles of water. After a rain, it is common to see huge flocks of butterflies drinking from mud puddles. Apparently, they also derive nutrient from the mud.

When you visit garden centers or look in mail order catalogs, you will probably notice some sell butterfly houses. These add a decorative touch to the landscape. But they aren’t necessary. Those butterfly species that overwinter as adults will find the shelter they need. So you need not concern yourself with providing this.

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