Butterfly Garden: Attracting Color On Wings
Kids love butterflies, and planting
the plants that nurture and attract them is an absolute delight. Here are some
suggestions for a butterfly-attracting garden that will give kids hours of
enjoyment, and dozens of ideas for spin-off learning activities all summer
You wouldn't need to have most of
these plants to have success - just a few. If you really don't have much space,
probably your best bet is a shrub called a "butterfly bush." It's almost
guaranteed to draw butterflies in. A close second is a perennial plant called
Stonecrop - 'Autumn Joy' Sedum.
Otherwise, if you can group quite a
few of the same plants together in clusters, you'll serve our near-sighted
butterfly friends. They'll be able to spot the feeding station more easily from
Butterflies love weeds and relatively
untended areas. The favorite plant of the regal monarch butterfly, for example,
is the lowly milkweed. If you can possibly set aside a sunny meadow-type space,
with tall plants as well as short ones, that looks more natural than
"landscaped by humans," you'll attract a lot of the flying lovelies.
To really serve their needs, have a
couple of "puddling stations" - places with moist sand or mud where rainwater
forms little puddles where they can cool off, as well as "basking stations" -
rocks sunk in dirt, or bare ground, easily warmed by the sun, where our
cold-blooded butterfly friends can "lay out" and warm up.
The idea is to plan a few plants that
adult butterflies will lay their eggs on because caterpillars like to feed on
what they find right off the bat, and a few plants that adult butterflies can
find nectar in. Then there are shrubs and trees that can provide wind blocks
and provide butterfly food at the same time.
A benefit is that most of these plants
like dry conditions, once they are established. So water three or four times a
week for the first two or three weeks, and then just once a week if it doesn't
rain. If it does rain, do nothing and just keep your eyes peeled, because
you're going to see a butterfly show!
Those that provide food for
caterpillars are marked with an L (for larval stage).
- cut back after first bloom, and you'll get another round
Bottlebrush (Callistemon) - this shrub doesn't
like cold winters, but if you have a protected spot out of the cold winter
wind, and mulch its roots, it'll probably make it; bright red flowers are
blue pincushion flower
(Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue') - cut back after first bloom is over for
a second round of flowering
pinnatus) - also known as the "Poor Man's Orchid," this annual is best planted
by the dozen or so; it comes in purple, magenta, red, pink and white; it is
probably more available as seed rather than started plants; thin to 8" apart
after they sprout.
iris ((Spuria) - will
stand 4-5 feet tall; has different shaped flowers than the regular iris and
blooms later in the summer; needs sun at least a half-day, and likes lots of
tuberosa) - likes to be dry once established; choose sandy soil or add sand
before you plant to make sure it has good drainage; actually thrives on
neglect, so don't worry about fertilizing.
- makes a great
ground cover if you have space to just let it spread.
- Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpurem) -
gets as tall as 5 feet, so put it in the back.
- curly-leaf parsley.
(Echinaceae purpurea) - likes to be dry once established
- Red clover - it's a
wildflower that's a popular food plant for blues and sulphurs.
atriplicifolia) - likes it dry; don't ever prune
-- 'Autumn Joy' Sedum
- blooms in late summer and you can't keep the butterflies off it, though it's
not too exciting until then.
coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
Marigolds (Tagetes) - this familiar annual
flower is easy to start from seed, and butterflies really go for the yellow,
gold and orange varieties.
davidii) - very fragrant, cone-shaped flower clusters; don't ever prune it
during the growing season; it will die back to the ground in winter, and you
can cut off the stems in early spring; then watch - it'll come back!
Wisteria - this shrub with its long clusters
of fragrant blooms is thought to be a Southern plant, but they can do fine in Nebraska winters if they
have a bit of a wind block.
- American hackberry
- Black cherry tree
- Red Oak
- Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Willow tree (Salix babylonica)
- Wild Cherry