It’s easy and fun to encourage and sustain butterflies in your garden. Butterfly gardening can consist of a few patio plants or acres of wildflower natives. The general requirements for butterfly habitat include
- a sunny site
- nectar providing plants (colorful variety of food for the adults)
- host providing plants (for laying eggs and use as a caterpillar food source)
- a pesticide free environment
Butterflies need warm temperatures to flourish and most of the colorful flowers that provide the adults with food, prefer warm sunny sites. Nectar producing plants, like lantana, marigolds, zinnia and purple coneflower attract the adult butterfly and provide food for the adults. Butterflies have a keen sense of color. They seem to prefer red, orange, yellow, purple, and dark pink. A wide variety of colorful flowers is the best way to entice and maintain a diverse butterfly population.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to use only the nectar producing plants. Also needed are the host plants, many of which aren’t so attractive but provide egg laying sites and food for the emerging caterpillars. Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed. Plant at least two different milkweed varieties, the more variety the better.
Common herbs like parsley, dill, fennel and rue also feed the monarch caterpillar. Plant a little extra just for the butterflies. And consider incorporating a few native plants in your landscape or garden. Native plants provide habitat and food for birds, bees and other beneficial insects. Here’s a list of some of our most popular native plants.
For more information about butterfly gardening visit the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Butterfly House at http://www.butterflyhouse.org/butterflies/butterflygardening.aspx