How many butterflies have you seen this year? Whenever my husband and I head out for a hike, we always remember to bring our binoculars. You never know when a beautiful butterfly will pause for a rest! If you've ever wanted to draw them closer—and feed them at the same time—know that a butterfly garden can be the ultimate reward for everyone. Let's get started.
The Importance of Native Plants
Isn't nature stunning? Native plants are a beautiful choice for a home garden. Although other blooms are lovely in their own right, they generally aren't found in a wild landscape. Plus, the butterflies that flit through wildflower fields will be attracted to flowers of the same type in your yard.
These native plants are also used to the soil, light, and weather conditions present at your home, so they'll adjust themselves quite readily. But don't forget water! In semi-arid Mediterranean environments found throughout Southern California, native plants have adapted to grow with the low moisture. My husband, who is a botanist, has shared with me many of the common traits of these beautiful native species. His expertise has helped me learn how to identify and understand the ecological relationships of many plants. Did you know there are also summer-drought plants that drop their leaves in the summer to conserve energy? Amazing!
Crack Open a Butterfly Book
To attract your region's most beautiful butterflies, you need to know which types of plants they like. Pull out your local butterfly guide—if you have kids, they will love admiring the photos too! Indulge their curiosity about a specific butterfly by looking up its life facts and flying range. You just might learn something yourself.
My husband loves to point out different native plants when we head out for a hike. It's always fun to spot the ones with butterflies hovering nearby, some of which let you take a quick picture. Ideal (butterfly) caterpillar host plants in the west, for example, include native species like buckwheats, milkweeds, snapdragons, lupines, asters, and sunflowers. Nectar sources for adult butterflies are diverse, including species like mints, penstemons, thistles, blazing stars, dogbanes, and owl's clover.
In other parts of the country, your native plant life might differ. Why not check your local library for helpful nature references? Great native plants for butterflies near you may include bellflowers, spring beauties, cinquefoils, evening primroses, anemones, bleeding hearts, coneflowers, or crossvines.
Discover Your Inner Artist
Time to pull out your creative talents and sketch your garden! Be sure to include your kids in the design stage, and give them a chance to wield the magic pencil. Imagination plays a huge role in creating this diagram, particularly when grouping certain plants together instead of staggering them all over the plot. If you like garden accents, incorporate small rocks, benches, or bird baths as well. Some flowers that attract butterflies are found on annual species, whereas others grow on towering shrubs. Remember to factor in full growth cycles and heights so each plant has a chance to reach its maximum blossom.
Plant Your Winning Selection
With the enthusiastic help of your kids, set your plants according to the completed diagram. Encourage your young assistants to be mindful of other plants or creatures nearby—and let the gardening begin. Gather your tools, as well as any necessary mulch or topsoil, and get your hands dirty for a fun, engaging day as you bring your beautiful visions to life.
Tending and Nurturing
In the beginning stages of your butterfly garden, the plants will require more care. Give them water on a regular basis, but watch for any signs of over-watering or dehydration. Examine each plant for weeds or anything that might cause damage to young foliage over time. Perhaps your child would like to dress up as the water fairy and sprinkle each new flower with droplets of fresh toadstool dew. Imaginations come alive in the most attractive butterfly gardens.
Creating a butterfly garden is guaranteed to bring out blooms and smiles when new butterflies stop by for a drink. From designing to planting, a new nature frontier is always a thrill—especially when it's homemade. Have you ever designed a garden for butterflies?
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