Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Vivid, regal and beautiful, butterflies are one of nature’s triumphs. It’s no surprise many people welcome butterflies into their gardens and go out of their way to attract them.

A butterfly garden isn’t just designed to draw butterflies in, but to encourage them to stay and lay eggs. With the right plants and gardening practices, you can cultivate a thriving atmosphere that attracts butterflies.

Done right, butterfly gardening can increase the butterfly population. Due to habitat destruction, butterflies are becoming rarer in some areas. 

What kinds of butterflies should you try to attract?
 Large or small, your garden will benefit from some initial research. Find out what types of butterflies are common in your area.  There are between 15,000 and 20,000 species of butterflies worldwide, but there’s no point carefully building the perfect habitat for a butterfly that never appears where you live. Have a look at Butterfly Gardening by Area to see which ones are native to your state.

Once you’ve decided what kinds of butterflies to target, the next step is to find out what kinds of flowers and plants they feed on and lay eggs on. What plants are most likely to attract that particular species? Every butterfly has its own favorite nectar sources and specific host plants. Get to know what the caterpillars look like as well.

What plants attract butterflies?
"Butterfly and Bloom"
(C) Allen Pearson
The adult butterfly diet usually consists of sweet liquids, such as nectar. Therefore, flowers that contain more nectar are more attractive to butterflies. Certain types of flower species or flower colors draw more butterflies.

Nectar bearing flora that attract butterflies include asters, sunflowers, marigolds, daisies, sunflowers, lilacs, geranium, violets, honeysuckle, and zinnias. Other types of flora you could incorporate include banksia, bottlebrush, fennel, milkweed and eucalyptus.

Consider planting a range of flowers that will bloom in sequence to keep butterflies coming back. This way, you’ll be able to stretch your butterfly season out as long as possible, offering the creatures value from spring through to fall. Play your cards right and the winged beauties could grace your garden most of the year round.

But remember, no butterfly garden is complete without host plants. If you want butterflies to remain in your garden rather than simply pass through, and cultivate new generations of butterflies, you need to include host plants for the to lay their eggs and for the caterpillars to feed on.

Various types of greenery, including willows, berries and thistles, play host to butterflies. Here’s a handy list of larval host plants for butterflies you might like to refer to. Trees and shrubs also, as a bonus, offer shelter from the rain and wind, protecting butterflies from the rougher elements.

Finally, check which plants are annuals and which are perennials. Use annual blooms to provide nectar all year around, and perennial flowers to provide nectar when they are in season. Perennials will return year after year, but annuals need replacing every year. Some of these plants will also require maintenance, such as a trim during the winter.

A few more tips:
 Butterflies have many predators, from birds to spiders to wasps. That said, avoid using toxic pesticides. Try traps rather than pesticides, which can have the unwanted effect of killing butterflies and their larvae as well. Learn to tolerate some chewed plant leaves – much of that is caused by caterpillars, which later turn into butterflies!

Look into buying a butterfly house to install in your garden. Butterfly houses have slots that allow butterflies in but keep birds out, and offer shelter from rough weather.

"Butterfly and Zinnia"
(C) Allen Pearson
Don’t forget about providing a water source for your butterflies. They drink not from bird baths or ponds, but by sucking droplets off plants or puddles. (Butterflies often gather around mud puddles, which is known as mud-puddling).
Try putting a shallow saucer of water out in the sun, and refill it every few days as needed.

Rather than taking a scattershot approach, plant flowers of the same type en masse, as a dense patch is more likely to attract butterflies than a lone plant. Butterflies see more colors than humans do but they are also near-sighted, so it’s easier for them to hone in on a large area.

And remember to place your butterfly garden in a sunny spot, as butterflies shun shade, and the flowers they are attracted to bloom best in full sun.

About the Author: This post comes courtesy of Allpower, an online gardening store providing a wide variety of garden and outdoor power equipment, covering everything from chainsaws to lawn mowers, hedge trimmers & other gardening landscaping products.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please remember this is a family-friendly website. I have several children of all ages reading these posts.