Last year, my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop planted a butterfly garden at the local elementary school. It was a very educational service project and the girls were in charge of every step of the process. They had to do the research on what types of plants to put in their butterfly garden, do the shopping, weed and plant the bed, and then water for a couple of months until it became established. They did a wonderful job and I like to think that they learned a few things along the way while still having plenty of fun! I thought I would share the tips for planting a butterfly garden that we learned as we worked. If you decide to create a butterfly garden, don’t forget the pollinator watering station!
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Why Plant a Butterfly Garden?
As I plan out what plants I want to put in my spring garden, I would like to include a number of flowers that attract butterflies. Climate change, pollution and habitat destruction are causing many species of butterflies to become endangered and even extinct.
It is important that we do everything we can to encourage their continued survival. Not just because they are pretty to look at but because they are a very important pollinator and without the spread of pollen, our food supply is in serious danger.
I would like to encourage all of you to do a little planting this spring to give butterflies a reason to come to your yard. A butterfly garden does not have to be a complicated project. All they need are a few flowers, a source of water, and NO pesticides. This is a great environmental project for kids to teach them the importance of pollinators in our food system. Here are a few things to consider when planting your own butterfly garden this year:
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Butterfly Garden Additions You Might Like
- Put up a butterfly house so they have somewhere to live.
- Get a butterfly feeder to provide homemade nectar.
- Invest in a butterfly identification book so you can learn all about your new friends.
Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden
Plant your butterfly garden in full sun.
Many of the flowering plants that butterflies enjoy visiting will require full sun to bloom. It is those blooms that will bring both beauty AND butterflies to your yard.
Think strong scents and bold colors.
Your butterfly garden will be most successful if you plant flowers that come in deep reds, bright yellows, and vibrant purples. If it is pretty to look at and smells good, butterflies will come!
Skip the pesticides.
While pesticides may kill pests in your yard, you will also be killing beneficial insects as well. And don’t forget, before a butterfly can exist, it must live it’s life as a caterpillar. That caterpillar is going to chew up host plants in order to grow and morph into the beautiful creatures you see flitting from plant to plant.
Killing caterpillars because you don’t want your plants chewed up will also mean you are not going to get any butterflies! Instead of pesticides, plant marigolds, petunias, mint and other herbs that naturally repel pests. Use only organic gardening solutions in your yard and garden. You can make your own newspaper earwig trap or use salt to kill snails. there are many natural ways to get rid of garden pests that are safe for pollinators.
Include a water/mineral source.
Butterflies need water and a shallow tray in your butterfly garden will be a big attraction. Place some sand in the bottom of the tray to provide trace minerals for your butterflies and include a nearby rock for them to land on and bask in the sun. Create a tiny little ecosystem in your butterfly garden like the one above.
Make sure you include a wide variety of plants with overlapping ‘blooming’ seasons.
You want to encourage butterflies to visit your butterfly garden for as long as possible throughout the spring and summer. You will need ‘host’ plants that will house eggs and provide food for caterpillars as well as bright blooms to provide nectar for butterflies as they emerge. For a nice long list of plants appropriate for your butterfly garden, visit this butterfly conservation website.
Attracting butterflies to your yard isn’t hard if you keep in mind these tips for planting a butterfly garden. And if you are a food gardener, you will have the added bonus of attracting more pollinators to your yard to increase your food harvest as well. Especially since many of these tips will not only attract butterflies but also honey bees to your yard as well.
Remember, one of the most important things to remember is to SKIP THE PESTICIDES! Not only in the butterfly garden but throughout your entire yard. Consider growing lemongrass to keep mosquitoes away. Have any other tips for planting a butterfly garden?
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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.