I don't know when I fell in love with butterflies but I became inquisitively interested in them all of the sudden
a few short years ago and decided to start changing my garden to attract them. I started
reading and researching to find what plants they liked and what butterflies I had in my area.
I found out that some plants I would never be able to plant in my garden and some butterflies I
would never have visit my garden. You see, there are habitats for every butterfly and some
you just can't provide for.
I love flowering plants but soon discovered that not all flowering plants would attract butterflies.
One that surprised me was the rose. A rose is a delight to us but to a butterfly it's just
another plant to land on and rest if nothing else better is around. They do not extract nectar
from them and they do not use them as vegetation in their larval stages.
Have you ever heard of the "Butterfly Alphabet"? These letters and numbers are found on the wings of various butterflies. Click on the image to enlarge.
The best way to start your garden is to do your homework first. If you don't, you may waste
a lot of time and money planting flora that will not attract a single butterfly. You can
find much information on the internet and your local library. Also book stores have many
selections you can choose from to purchase. Books dedicated to the butterflies and plants
that are in your area are your best bet, if you can find them.
I have found that not all the plants that some sources will tell you are good attractors
will be, but that will be a trial and error experiment you will have to do yourself.
Some colors or varieties of plants are better than others as well. One example are
"pentas". I have found that the red ones attract 100 times better than any other
colors and some of the other colors don't attract at all. So, if I were going to tell
you to buy pentas, I would say buy "red pentas".
You may notice once your butterflies find your larval plants, that you'll be needing more.
I had a scary moment recently finding myself with too many caterpillars for the amount
of milkweed I had to feed them. I called several nurseries before I finally located some.
Caterpillars are eating machines so don't get caught with too many and not enough
food like I did or you will be scrambling to find some more food for them!
I have started picking the caterpillars off of the host plants and rearing them in a small
terraruim house. We have many pedators, especially lizards, that were consuming
the little buggers before they could morph. I had thirteen monarch caterpillars feeding at one time.
It really kept me on my toes. I was trying to perserve my plants so I was picking leaves
for them twice a day to feed on.
Milkweed is very easily started by cutting the stems in small sections where the nodes are
and sticking them into the ground.
I tried starting some from seed but this was too slow of a process for me and the little
weak startlings faded out quickly in the Florida heat.
I've only reared monarchs thus far and am just now starting to fool with some swallowtails.
I purchased some bronze fennel at the nursery which already had eggs and a caterpillar, and I
also bought one
parsley plant that had a caterpillar. I stuck the small 4" pot of parsley in the terrarium but the
fennel is rather lengthy and I don't believe I will be trying to do that with it unless I get a larger
rearing house. I am going to
have to go buy more fennel. I can see now it is rather sparse.
Another Poster of the "Butterfly Alphabet". To find out about ordering contact: www.butterflyalphabet.com Click on the image to enlarge.
Be sure you provide a variety of nectar source plants for your butterfly garden. I have had
the best luck with lantana, penta, plumbago, jatropha, buddliea, golden dew drop, and
verbena. You will also want to vary the heights of the nectar plants that you buy.
Don't go out and buy too many of one type of plant, for you may find your butterflies are
not even attracted to it. I have found too that the longer a plant is established and producing
better, the better the butterflies will like it. My buddleia took two years to start producing
enough to attract.
Nectar flowers attract other insects as well but do NOT use insecticides on your plants or
you will not have butterflies! I have wasps and other stinging type insects but they are
not interested in me, even when I'm standing right there in front of them. You'll find you
can live in harmony with them. Just a note, I had someone tell me that wasps eat butterflies.
I know that dragonflies do, as I have witnessed it but was surprised to learn that wasps do also. I think these
are exceptions though, more than the rule.
Many sources mention providing rotting fruit, etc for your butterflies but I have not had
success with this and cannot provide rotting fruit for them on a regular basis so I have chose
not to pursue this anymore. Also providing puddles for them has not been something that
I have managed to do successfully but have been quite happy with the amount of butterflies I am getting to
visit my garden. I have noticed that each year the number of butterflies has increased too.
Zebra Longwings and Gulf Frittilaries in my garden are quite happy with the passionflower that
I have provided for them. The purple maypop variety it the best. I let it grow all over my camellia
bushes because I've run out of room on my fence to put them on. A nice big trellis will provide
ample climbing room for them if you don't have a fence. They will pop up all over your yard once you get them growing good
as they send out tendrils underground. Mowing your yard will keep them to a minimum and pulling what pops up elsewhere will
also help to keep them from taking over.
The Zebra Longwings are my most predominate butterflies in the garden and they seem to love most
any nectar sources I provide. I've yet to find their caterpillars! They must be really good at
hiding. I have so many of the butterflies, I'm not worried about protecting them like some of the
If you don't have a lot of yard, you can still enjoy having some butterflies by placing a few of the most
accepted plants in your garden. You can use pots if you need to, to place on a balcony even. When
choosing a particular place to put your plants, always consider if you will be able to see you frequent
flyers. Outside a kitchen window, or family room window where you sit alot in the house would be good.
Be sure you provide the right conditions for your plants however, most need sun, and so do the butterflies.
Some butterflies will visit in the shade but the greater number like the sun to keep their solar heaters
going. Ample water will be needed, especially in the heat of the summer. If you have potted plants and
hanging baskets, remember they will dry out quickly. Soak them in a tray of water when they no longer
will hold water because they are too dry. You will know this when you see the water running straight out
as you water them. Don't put plants in pots or keep in hanging baskets if you cannot attend to their
watering needs. You'll just waste your money and time as they will soon be goners!
On the next page you will find some pictures of some of my butterflies and flowers. I hope you
will enjoy them and will feel free to send me pictures of your garden flowers, and butterflies so I may
enjoy yours. Please, let me know too, if you would give permission for me to use them in this site. I welcome
any comments, suggestions or just chat, email me.
Happy Butterfly Gardening....more on the next pages so don't go away!