Growing Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly gardens are not only beautiful with it’s wide variety of colorful flowers and plants but helpful to butterflies and the environment. Butterflies can be beautiful to watch and are an important part of our ecosystem.

Butterflies provide plants and flowers with an efficient method to pollinate the plants they feed and lay eggs on. Wind is another alternative to pollination and is far less efficient. Bees and some birds also provide pollination but some species of bees only like certain plants and flowers.

Birds such as hummingbirds that feed on certain flowers are far more picky about what species of flower they feed on. Butterflies are also picky but not quite as much so as hummingbirds.

In nature there is a reason for each species and we as the ones who are slowly taking over natural areas for development need to provide nature with some help.

Butterflies are an interesting species of insect and can be fascinating to study and watch. They are a part of the species lepidopteron. Included in this species is butterflies and moths.

The closest relative to the butterfly is the moth. The moths far outnumber butterflies in their species. Butterflies account for eight percent of the species lepidopteron while moths are 92 percent.

They have very little to fear from most birds, their natural coloring and bright looks do not hide them so much as serve as a warning. Most butterflies eat nectar from plants that have a natural toxin in them.

Their bodies intensify this toxin and make their body a natural poison to birds. This is why they are so colorful, to serve as a warning. Don’t eat me, I am toxic. Moths tend to not have these colors and many have to rely on camouflage to hide from predators such as birds.

Providing butterflies with the correct plant and flower species can help them with there life cycle and help flowers and plants grow and flourish. We can also help butterflies with plants and areas to lay eggs and congregate.

A butterfly garden can be a beautiful and important part of our help in preserving nature.

First you need to pick a location for our garden and decide how you want to build the garden. The location should be away from any busy areas of your yard like the drive way or doorways to the house. It should be a few feet from anything like the sidewalk and these busy locations.

This does not mean it has to be all the way in the back. Just a couple of feet so that cars or people do not unnecessarily disturb the butterflies.

Once you have decided where it will be you will design the garden and setup the border or whatever it is you decide to create the garden. In the picture you can see that I have used border stones in a shape of a butterfly to create ours.

The stones were purchased at a local department store, yep Walmart, but you can also get them from a home improvement store. We just set the stones down how we wanted them and stacked on the outside so the stones would not fall over.

The stones we used have a tongue in groove pattern on the side so they interlock for some of the pattern but we also had to turn some stones around to get the curves right for the pattern. This is where we had to stake the stones up.

We then dug the grass up and added some good dirt to raise the level of the inside. We added some good compost to help the plants grow and then decided what plants and flowers we wanted where.

As to what plants to buy, you need to figure out what butterflies are in your area and what plants and flowers they like. You can go to some websites to find out what butterflies are in your area but it can be a fun project for kids to identify and find out for themselves what butterflies are near you.

The U.S. Geological Survey has a great website with lists to show what butterflies are in your area. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/lepid/bflyusa/bflyusa.htm#maps

Below are websites that list flowers and plants to add to your garden and other information such as what stage of life the insect is when it is attracted to the flowers or plants. During the different lifecycles of the insect; pupa, larvae, and adult butterfly there are different plants in some species that they choose to feed and be on.
http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/components/6711t04.html http://www.uky.edu/Agriculture/Entomology/entfacts/misc/ef006.htm
http://butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm

There is different species of plants that do not really flower like blooming flowers that butterflies are attracted to that you might already have in your garden. Some of these are dill, parsley, rosemary, anise, peppermint and spearmint.

If you live in the U.S. there are some species of plants and flowers that will attract a wide variety of butterflies that you may already have in your garden or yard. Aster, Goldenrod, and marigold can attract different species of butterflies while some weeds can also do this.

Some species of butterflies are attracted to thistle, milkweed, dandelion, clover and milkweed. These are considered plants and flowers when you plant them on purpose for your butterfly garden. Weeds are actually not a certain plant but a general term used for plants that we do not want in certain areas. In the grass a dandelion or clover is a weed and yet in the butterfly garden it is a useful plant.

To plant the different species of flowers in your garden you can use the information about the flower to decide how you want them. You should realize that some of the flowers and plants can be quite a bit taller than others.

In ours we planted the taller ones toward the middle and the shorter ones around the outside. You can decide how you want yours and vary it to your tastes. We did not keep the variety of flowers very separate, they tend to mingle in the different areas.

There is no reason to keep all the different flowers and plants separated by anything or any amount of space. You can have them mixed together however you want. You can even buy a flower and plants seed mix that is a variety that butterflies like. I have seen this at Walmart and Kmart, it comes in a tube and is filled with seeds.

In ours I think it is neat to have the flowers and plants kind of intermixed somewhat, it gives the garden a full look and a certain wildness to it.

There are a few other things you can add to the area of your garden to help out the butterflies. Butterflies drink water as well as nectar. A small dish or bowl can give them a necessary drinking place. You can use a birdbath but they will probably not use this much. A smaller dish or bowl is more appropriate for them. You can have it in amongst the garden or nearby.

You can pick up small ornamental things that will serve this purpose. Or just set a small dish in the garden and just water it when you water the garden. And on the topic of garden care there is one thing that you need to make sure you do not do to your garden.

DO NOT USE PESTICIDES IN YOUR BUTTERFLY GARDEN. I know this is kind of a given but you should not use any kind of chemicals in your garden or even nearby. The butterflies will not come to your garden if they smell or detect pesticides.

You can also buy or make a butterfly house to attract and keep butterflies in your area. We purchased ours at Walmart, can you tell I frequent the place, or you can search a wide variety of places. Flower and garden shops, greenhouses or home improvement stores might carry them. You can also find plans to make one on the web here: http://butterflywebsite.com/articles/house/plans.htm

This site is a pdf file, to download it you need to left click on it and wait for it to load, then you need to save it to your computer in a file. www.gardengatemagazine.com/main/pdf/butterfly.pdf

Some sites were you can buy some fancy looking butterfly houses are here: http://www.bestnest.com/bestnest/butterfly_houses.asp
http://www.backyardbird.com/butterflies.html

Your butterfly garden can be as big or small, as elaborate or simple as you like. You can have a wide variety of decorations or as plain as the one we did. The garden can be a wonderful place for you to attract and watch butterflies in their natural habitat.

Kids can enjoy watching and trying to identify the species of each one that visits. Ours was done as a 4-H project but we also continued using it for the years after we first made it. It is a great way to help the environment and beautify your home and yard.

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