Install a butterfly garden to create an environment that attracts and hosts a variety of butterflies, sustains their entire life cycle, and provides the nourishment they need. Install a diverse group of plants to provide shelter, sun, food, and water. Keep it native and organic.
Our last blog post discussed the things you can plant to attract butterflies to your gardens. If you want to take it to the next level, go beyond scattering these plants throughout your yard and install a butterfly garden: a concentrated area full of the things that will attract, host, and support butterflies and caterpillars.
Follow these tips to create an environment that sustains the entire life cycle of a butterfly and provides the resources and nourishment it needs.
Mix it Up
To attract a variety of butterfly species, plant shrubs and flowers of different colors, heights, growth patterns, and shapes.
Different colors of flowers draw different species; incorporate the whole rainbow to see a wider variety of butterflies. Grow these bright, flowering nectar sources in masses so they are more enticing to your winged visitors.
Horizontal and vertical diversity by way of flower height and growth pattern will result in multiple microclimates with varied shelter and feeding opportunities. This will draw a broader assortment of butterfly species to your garden.
Plant a mixture of flower shapes to encourage butterflies with different feeding behaviors to visit. Only larger butterflies with long proboscises may retrieve nectar from long-tubed flowers, while smaller species can more easily reach the nectar in composite flowers like sunflowers or asters.
Have you ever wondered where butterflies go when they’re not floating from flower to flower to find nectar? Like us, butterflies need shelter to raise their young, hide from predators, and seek protection from wind, rain, and extreme temperatures. Trees, rocks, hedges, tall grasses, and logs are natural features you can incorporate into your garden to provide shelter.
Offer a Sunny Resting Spot
Butterflies are dependent on external sources for body heat and must raise their body temperature to about 85 degrees before flying! For this reason, they like to rest in sunny areas with their wings spread. Place a couple of rocks or a log in a bright, open spot so that your butterflies can rest and sun themselves.
Supply Food and Water
Choose plants based on their maturity rates and blooming schedules and plant flowers that will bloom in succession, so that rich nectar sources are available throughout the season. Keep host plants in bunches so that your caterpillars won’t run out of food.
Of course, butterflies need water and essential nutrients, as well. Butterflies retrieve nutrients and salts from moist soil and muddy puddles. Create or buy a butterfly puddler to ensure that your garden is providing everything your butterflies need to survive.
Keep it Native and Organic
The last thing you want to do is harm the insects that you are building a home for. Avoid pesticides since many are toxic even to beneficial insects. Follow Florida-friendly landscaping guidelines to control pests and diseases in a natural way.
As you’re picking plants for your butterfly garden, choose as many native plants as possible to attract local butterfly species. Native plants are hardy, drought-tolerant, and resistant to diseases and pests; they attract other beneficial wildlife and represent the natural ecosystem of local species.