Butterflies are one of natures most elegant and beautiful creatures. One of the best ways to attract a plethora of these interesting winged pixies to your yard is by creating a butterfly garden. There are numerous variations of butterfly gardens and no real “wrong” way to go about constructing one, but a few essential ingredients will improve your success of attracting and maintaining a constant supply of butterflies for you to enjoy.
Create the Bed
The initial stages of making a butterfly bed are similar to making any other type of flowerbed. Before beginning, make a scale drawing of your garden that will serve as a guide for your project. Choose a sunny location that has well drained soil and is in a place where it will be most enjoyed.
Plants suitable for a butterfly garden require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, and butterflies require sunlight in order to fly. Outline the shape of the flowerbed and make the border. Always be sure that you know the location of underground utilities before you dig. If your soil is poor, add plenty of nutrient dense compost.
Create a Butterfly Habitat
Before selecting any plants, it is wise to do some research regarding native species of butterflies in your region. Once you know the types of butterflies that are common, you will be able to plan an appropriate habitat. First and foremost, butterflies require host plants where they will lay their eggs and to provide food for caterpillars. Some good choices for host plants include milkweed, spicebush, hibiscus, hollyhocks and snapdragons.
Nectar-rich plants provide food for mature butterflies. Plants that are especially appealing to butterflies include honeysuckle, sunflowers, lavender, phlox, coneflowers, purple passionflowers, anise hyssop, Joe Pye weed, butterfly bushes and lilacs. While perennial flowers will return year after year, planting a few annual flowers gives you the opportunity to add some variety.
To ensure a continual visitation, plant flowers that bloom at different times of the season and use annuals as fillers in between perennial blooms. Butterflies have an easier time spotting your garden when plants are arranged in large groupings. Avoid planting just one of any plant.
An often overlooked but essential element to a butterfly habitat is water. Although butterflies are small and do not require much water, a few shallow water holes help ensure that butterflies receive an adequate supply. Place a few jar lids throughout the garden and be sure to keep them full of water.
Small dishes of cut up fruit placed throughout the garden are a treat that will keep your butterflies coming back for more. Butterflies particularly love mashed banana. To create aesthetic appeal, don’t forget to install flowerbed edging.
Edging protects plants, defines the space and helps keep mulch and soil from washing away. If the space in your bed permits, install some stepping-stones, a small fountain or even a sitting bench.