A butterfly garden can be a beautiful and education addition to a garden. The plants needed to attract butterflies are reminiscent of an old cottage garden, providing a profusion of color to the landscape. Butterfly gardens can be simple and they can be very dramatic with feeders, butterfly houses, butterfly baths, rocks and pebbles to attract the winged spectacles.
Find a sunny location. The area must have a good amount of sun per day because butterflies are cold-blooded and need to warm their wings to fly. The location should be sheltered from winds by a row of trees or shrubs, a fence or a wall. The area can be small or large.
Prepare the area by digging up the soil with a shovel and turning it over with a rototiller. Remove all grass and weeds. Add compost, some manure and peat moss to make the soil pliable. If the area tends to be wet, lay a foundation of gravel and cover with 6 to 8 inches of soil and organic matter.
Choose plants to put in the garden and lay them out so they are not too crowded. Take into consideration the full size of the plant once it has grown to maturity. Most butterfly plants have bright flowers, and many of the flowers are trumpet-shaped. Butterflies love red and purple. Always be sure to use plants that are native to the local area. Plant trees and tall shrubs at the back of the garden, then medium-size plants next and the close-to-the-ground ones at the front of the garden. This will allow all plants to get enough sun. Choose the shrubs azalea, butterfly bush, lilac, privet and poplar. Annuals to choose would include coneflower, impatiens, marigolds, calendula, sunflower, heliotrope, petunia, nasturtium and zinnia. Popular perennials are bee balm, daisies, sedum, yarrow, asters, black eyed susans, ageratum, hollyhock, day lily, liatris, lupine, mint and peony.
Choose and plant those plants and shrubs that are conducive for butterfly reproduction. These would be the ones consumed by the caterpillars before turning into butterflies. Plant enough for the caterpillars to eat and do not prevent them from eating them. This would include pussy willow, dill, parsley, milkweed, snapdragons, thyme and mint.
Provide other food, water and housing for butterflies. Butterflies are unable to drink from open water, so place a bowl or birdbath in the garden that is filled with sand and mud. Make sure there is a puddle of water in the mud or sand, with pebbles and sticks sticking out of it for them to perch and drink. Butterflies enjoy basking in the sun to warm their wings, so provide rocks that will retain the heat of the sun. Butterfly houses will lend shelter to the butterflies when a storm blows up. Nectar feeders can be purchased and hung from a tree.