Butterflies are important pollinators that also add color, life, and interest to your backyard. With fewer and fewer available habits because of urban sprawl, creating a butterfly garden in your yard can help increase their populations.
A butterfly garden can be any size from carefully selected pots to a large area in your backyard.
A successful butterfly habitat provides a safe environment that attracts adults and supplies food for their young, caterpillars. If you need help designing a butterfly garden in your yard, talk to one of our landscape design experts about our garden services.
Selecting the Ideal Setting
To ensure that butterflies choose your yard, there are a few factors to consider when selecting the right location. The first is to choose a sunny, warm location that is protected from the wind because butterflies are fragile, cold-blooded insects. Butterflies can’t fly when they are too cold, so they need sunning spots where they can warm up. Rocks, evergreens, or exposed soil can retain the sun’s heat and are perfect for butterfly warming.
A water supply is also important. Most gardens provided enough water if they are properly hydrated; however, consider adding a man-made puddle or water bowl to attract even more butterflies.
Plants That Attract Adult Butterflies
Choose a variety of nectar-producing plants that bloom throughout the season in order to attract an assortment of butterfly species. Also, select plants with multiple florets or a large surface area as these pollinators need a place to land in order to feed. They prefer pink, purple, orange, yellow, or red flowers. They also tend to be more attracted to large groupings of the same color, so bypass the multicolor wildflower mixes.
Some great annuals to plant include zinnias, marigolds, sweet alyssum, lantanas, or salvia. These flowers provide color and nectar all summer long. If you prefer perennials that come back every year, black-eyed Susan, coneflowers, and asters are great sources of nectar. Butterflies also enjoy shrubs and trees like lilacs, Buddleia butterfly bush, azaleas, plum trees, and cherry trees.
Host Plants for Caterpillars
For a thriving butterfly garden, you also need to provide food for the larvae or caterpillars. We often think caterpillar just eat any leafy plant in our garden, but each butterfly species require a distinct host plant to lay their eggs.
The most commonly known endangered butterfly is the Monarch, which requires milkweed for its larvae. Milkweed is sometimes considered a weed because it grows quickly and can choke out other plants. However, if you plant Minnesota native milkweed, like swamp or purple milkweed, and understand it’s growing patterns, you can ensure that it doesn’t take over your yard. Common milkweed is also native, but is more tedious to control in your yard.
Other plants that make great caterpillar food are asters, birch trees, willow trees, violets, and dill. The Black Swallowtail butterfly prefers to lay their eggs on plants in the parsley family such as carrots and parsnips. Whereas, the larvae for the Common snout butterfly prefers hackberry.
Taking Care of Your Butterfly Garden
First and foremost, don’t use broad spectrum pesticides in your garden as it will kill your butterflies or the caterpillars. If you have to deal with another pest eating your plants, a spot treatment such as soap or oils works best.
Also, to prevent killing hibernating adults or eggs, refrain from pruning your perennials in the fall. If you’d like to know more about how to attract and retain butterflies in your yard, feel free to reach out to one of our landscape experts. In the meantime, enjoy watching the diversity of butterflies that are making your yard their home.