Everyone loves the site of colorful butterflies in their garden. These delicate and diverse creatures are marvels to the eye and provide a sense of nature that can’t be duplicated. The truth is, you don’t really need a “butterfly garden” to attract these beautiful creatures. In fact, if you study the species a bit, you’ll learn that some of the most attractive things to butterflies are weeds–the last thing that we would purposely add to our landscapes.
Butterflies are attracted to certain plants but don’t necessarily spend a lot of time in them. If you want to attract butterflies, you’ve got to think about not only adults, but also larva and caterpillars. In other words, you have to provide a complete environment to truly attract butterflies and this includes other elements than just plants.
The good news is there are so many types of plants that attract these colorful creatures, that’s it’s somewhat difficult to select ones that won’t do the trick. This is a welcome fact, because the more butterflies you attract to your yard, the more they’ll help in pollination and that promotes more robust, health growth of your flowers. However, when to attract these brightly colored insects, you’ll also attract predators, like birds, spiders, reptiles, other insects, which include such unwelcome guests as wasps, flies, and mites, as well as small mammals.
What to Know about Butterflies
Butterflies are very fragile and nearly defenseless creatures. To ward off predators, caterpillars and butterflies have few defenses. Caterpillars can emit foul odors–at least foul to potential predators, or, are poisonous. Butterflies rely on camouflage, flight, poison, and mimicry for defense. Mimicry is the adaptation of certain patterns and colors to fool predators into believing a butterfly is a poisonous one.
Brightly colored butterflies can be a welcome addition to your wildlife garden, not only because of their beauty, but also because of their usefulness in pollinating flowers. Attracting butterflies involves incorporating plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly. The insects need places to lay eggs, food plants for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nectar sources for adults. —National Wildlife Federation
Butterflies begin their lives as eggs attached to plants. When the eggs hatch, tiny larva emerge to grow into caterpillars. The caterpillars begin to eat immediately to grow, first their own shells, and second, their host plants. Eventually, a caterpillar will enter its pupa stage and form chrysalis. This is the beginning of what’s known as complete metamorphosis. When the transformation is done, a butterfly emerges and flies off to find host plants to feed and lay eggs. This is why your landscape must incorporate more than just attractive plants. You also need to provide them with shelter and plenty of places to fly about and explore.
How to Attract Butterflies to Your Landscape
To attract butterflies and do so consistently, you have to incorporate all the elements they need for their various life stages. While flowers and plants will certainly do a lot, you’ll need a few other things to make your yard a have for butterflies. Here are some helpful tips you can use in your landscape:
- Plant native flowers. One thing that ought to be obvious is that butterflies prefer native plants. This, of course, is because these serve as their primary food source and because non-native plants can be very poor places for their eggs and larva. In fact, some non-native plants won’t provide caterpillars with the necessities most needed to survive.
- Plant colorful flowers. Butterflies seem to prefer colorful flowers and “open.” Pink, purple, orange, red, and yellow will do the most to attract these pollinators. Butterflies are most attracted to clustered and flat-topped flowers, especially those with short flower tubes.
- Provide places to rest. Flowers and plants alone won’t be enough to attract butterflies. Flat stones, fences, and other places are great places to rest and bask in the warmth of the sun.
- Give them plenty of water. Feeders are another way to attract butterflies, but these colorful creatures also need water. When butterflies drink, they often do so in what’s known as “puddling.” This behavior is grouping together by extracting minerals from puddles. Fill a pan with course sand and work it into the soil to provide the right environment.
Two more Tips for Attracting Butterflies to Your Landscape
There are also a couple more ways to make your outdoor space attractive to butterflies:
- Plant for continuous blooming. If you’re able to work it out, plant flowers to bloom in succession, one after another for continuous blooming. This will give butterflies ample reason to make your landscape their home.
- Refrain from using insecticides. Because butterflies are so delicate, they are susceptible to even benign insecticides. Don’t use these, either organic or chemical, anywhere near where you’d like to attract butterflies.
One more important tip is to provide flowers that thrive in the sun. This is because adult butterflies generally feed from the mid-morning to mid-afternoon and only visit plants that are in the sun.