Butterfly feeding on a zinnia.
image by S.F. Heron
There's something very satisfying about creating a garden that attracts butterflies. Watching the beautiful winged creatures fly from flower to flower bring a sense of accomplishment. Attracting butterflies to your garden doesn't require special plantings or magic tricks to get the insects to appear. You simply need to provide the correct kind of food in the form of flower nectar.
Pick the proper location for your butterfly garden. Choose a sheltered area protected from the wind in a location with at least 6 to 8 hours of daily sunlight. Butterflies need warmth from the sun since they are cold-blooded. Your aim is to provide a good feeding as well as basking environment.
Evaluate the sunlight availability and soil conditioners before choosing plants. These two determining factors will decide the success of your garden. All plants have specific requirements listed on individual plant containers or labels upon purchase from a garden center. Always review this information before planting to assure that you're placing the plant in the optimum conditions for it to thrive.
Select plants that bloom at varying times during the summer growing season. This ensures plenty of food for these nectar-loving visitors as well as constant blooms throughout the summer for you to enjoy.
Select brightly colored blooming perennials such as aster, black-eyed Susan and lupines to encourage butterflies to visit your garden. Annuals such as geraniums and zinnias attract butterflies with strong colors and plenty of nectar.
Choose plants that have been raised organically. Avoid any plants that have been forced with traditional fertilizers, since this can taint the plant and flower. Remember that baby butterflies in the form of caterpillars eat plant leaves and their adult counterparts eat flower nectar.
Select a wide variety of plants with differently shaped flowers to allow for the difference in tongue shapes of different types of butterflies.
Plan to cluster plants together to make feeding easier for the butterfly. One visit can invite feeding on multiple flowers that grow close by.