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6 tips for planting a beautiful butterfly garden

Rebecca Cole offers advice on how to see and help conserve butterflies.
/ Source: TODAY

A butterfly garden is an easy way to both see more butterflies and to contribute toward their conservation, since many natural butterfly habitats have been lost to urbanization and other development. To begin, simply grow the host plants listed below that the butterfly would lay its eggs in. The caterpillars will like to eat the leaves as well. Plantings of host plants preferred by butterflies does not require any sacrifice of flowers or colors because they also require nectar plants such as yellow sunflowers, pink Joe Pye weed, purple coneflower, purple verbena, rudbeckia, red bee balm, and wild aster (to name a few) that provide plenty of color.

Avoid the use of broad-spectrum pesticides sprayed all around gardens. Alternatives are oils, soaps and microbial insecticides. But keep in mind that oils and insecticidal soaps kill caterpillars if sprayed directly on them. A good side effect of the decrease in pesticide use is the increase of natural enemies. These are insects such as spiders, lacewings and ladybugs and these bugs will keep the aphids away.

Butterfly garden basics
1. It's easy to attract butterflies to your garden. You just need the right plants.

  • Need host tree/plants and nectar-producing ones
  • Pick sunniest location for the latter

2. Butterflies need larvae host trees or plants for the butterflies to lay eggs in sheltered areas; once a caterpillar, it feeds on host tree.

  • Locate these host plants in an out-of-the-way area because of the munched on leaves (willow, poplar, apple, sycamore trees to name a few, and fennel, dill, parsley, and clover.)
  • Nectar-producing plants should be placed with design, height, size, color and blooming period considered.

3. Once a butterfly it will need nectar-producing plants to feed on. 

  • Plants that bloom in mid to late summer when most butterflies are active.
  • Summer annuals and wild perennials are particularly good (coneflowers, sunflowers, bee balm, lantana.)

4. Butterfly gardens can be planted from mature plants, annuals and seeds both in the ground, in raised beds or in containers.

5. The more blooms the better.

  • Water regularly
  • Keep the soil moist with 'Soil Moist'
  • Feed with a bloom booster plant food (the middle of the three numbers will be higher, it represents phosphorus.)

6. Grow plants in good organic soil and do not use pesticides, butterflies hate pesticides!

  • Even organic soaps and oils can kill caterpillars when sprayed directly on them.
  • Use beneficial insects such ladybugs, lacewings and spiders.
  • Do NOT use praying mantises; they eat the butterflies as well as the bad bugs!

Added bonus: all these things attract hummingbirds as well.



For more information from author and designer Rebecca Cole, you can visit her website at: