You can encourage butterflies in your Florida landscape by selecting certain varieties of plants. Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies. Each species of caterpillar is attracted to feed on a particular species of plant. Therefore, the concern that some people have about caterpillars feeding on other ornamental plants is not well founded. By growing plants that are favored by the caterpillars of certain butterfly species, you can attract those caterpillars and the resultant butterflies to your yard.
The butterfly bush flowers continuously from spring to fall but may not survive in southwest Florida. The butterfly bush is a semi-evergreen shrub that can grow to between 8 and 10 feet tall. Its blossoms resemble golden butterflies. Suitable for United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 9 through 11, it grows in partial shade to full sun. The butterfly bush grows in most soils, as long as they drain well. It is a good nectar plant, which helps attract butterflies.
Another good nectar plant is goldenrod. Flowering in the summer or fall, these plants grow to between 1 and 5 feet tall, but average 3 to 4 feet. Goldenrod grows best in soils that drain well and does best in full or partial sun. The small yellow flowers grow on only one side of the stem. Goldenrod is recommended for USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9.
Mexican Flame Vine
Mexican flame vine grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11, where it will grow year-round. The vine is easily knocked down by frost but can grow as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8b and 9. Mexican flame vine’s flowers are good nectar plants for attracting butterflies. It does very well in almost any soil type and requires little care. It grows best in partial shade or partial sun.
Milkweed, sometimes called butterfly weed or silkweed, is a host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar. By planting milkweed with other flowers that can offer the adult butterflies food, you can encourage monarchs to breed in your landscape. Milkweed grows well in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 10. Milkweed grows to between 1 and 2 feet tall. It does best in full sun and will grow in most soils. Milkweed is tolerant of drought but does not tolerate salt in the air and soil.
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