Bring Natural Beauty to Your Yard with a Butterfly Garden
by Kate McIntyre
Old House Web Columnist
Gardens are sensuous delights on their own, with their heady fragrances, varied textures of leaves, and many-hued flowers in bloom. By choosing your plants carefully, though, you can add another layer of interest to your garden--butterflies. A garden with plants that attract butterflies provides its owners with great beauty and gives butterflies a safe haven.
Starting Your Garden
Butterflies tend to prefer spending time in the sun, so if possible find a sunny spot for your garden. Choose a variety of plants that bloom throughout the growing season to maximize your butterfly visitors. The list below provides some good options.
- Butterfly Bush: Tall shrubs with white, pink, purple, or red flowers. Most varieties bloom in late summer.
- Purple Coneflower: Two to three feet tall. Blooms June-September.
- Goldenrod: Dusty yellow blooms on two to three foot tall plants August to October.
- Aster: Many different varieties. Blooms mid-summer through early fall.
- Coreopsis: Yellow and red blossoms on plants around two feet high. Blooms June through October.
Feeding the Babies
With their fat worm-like bodies and stumpy heads, caterpillars possess little of butterflies' charm. You might not be interested in attracting these eating machines to your garden, but caterpillars and butterflies are a package deal. By planting some of caterpillars' favorite foods, you can ensure that they remember your garden fondly (or at least hungrily) once they become butterflies.
Caterpillars can be picky, and different species enjoy eating different plants. Some favorite foods of caterpillars include:
- Black Swallowtail: Curly Leaf Parsley, Dill, Carrots, Celery
- Tiger Swallowtail: Eastern Cottonwood
- Monarch: Common Milkweed
- Spring Azure Blue: Flowering Dogwood, Meadow Sweet, Viburnum
- Painted Lady: Hollyhocks, Cosmos
Once you plant your butterfly garden, you'll need to refrain from using pesticides. This might mean that a few more garden pests nibble on your plants, but the joy of frequent visits from breathtaking butterflies should more than make up for a few nibbled leaves.
About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.