If you have a sunny spot in your yard right now that is filled with less-than-desirable plants, consider creating a butterfly garden. Not only are butterflies beneficial to a garden because they help pollinate the surrounding flowers, but there is also a lot of enjoyment in planting a special spot to host such magical creatures.
I decided to tackle an area like this at my daughters’ school. It took a few hours down in the dirt, some minor aches and a major need of a manicure, but the sweat equity was worth it for producing a lovely little habitat. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of the end result. I even gave myself a few dirt-covered pats on the back. Even more than that, it was fun to think of all the kids joyfully spying butterflies for seasons to come.
Here is what I planted, knowing they are native perennials:
Coneflowers, milkweed, foxglove, phlox, lantana, salvia, mint, asters and budlia. In the existing area there were already two lovely passion fruit vines, which provide wonderful, nectar-rich flowers for the adult butterflies and delicious fruit, so I kept them in place.
Tips for creating your own butterfly garden:
- Consider a picket fence— a fence will create nice protection for the plants and a perch for the butterflies.
- Create a path – for this project we used a combination of cement pavers and bark. This way little feet can stay on the path and not squash the seedlings. The pavers will also create a nice resting place for your butterflies to warm up. Warn the kids though to look out for resting butterflies on the path.
- Choose perennial plants, then you don’t have to be committed to replanting the area every year. Think in terms of drifts- most of the perennials I bought came in six-packs, so I planted them all together in one grouping and then moved on to the next.
- Try to pick two colors to be your lead palette. I chose hues of orange and purple (are you surprised?) to be my main colors and then added in lavender and peach. Nurseries typically sell multi-color six-packs of flowers, so ask if you can buy flowers individually or single-color six-packs.
- Select plants that host both the caterpillar as well as the adult butterfly. Certain butterflies will only lay eggs on milkweed, so make sure that’s part of your planting mix.
- Also, include enough nectar-producing plants whose blooms will provide food the the butterflies throughout the season. Plant flowers that bloom mid-to-late summer, when butterflies are the most active.
- Choose native species – your local butterflies will appreciate it. There’s no place like home.