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November 29, 2011

Butterflies welcome! How to make a butterfly garden

-by Debra Anchors

The butterfly counts not months, but moments, and has time enough – Rabindranath Tagore

Do you want flowers with wings? You may not allow yourself to sit down and enjoy the garden in the middle of the day as often as you could. It’s easy to get caught up in planting, weeding and deadheading. But if you only sit down in the evening, you’re missing something – butterflies! They’re most active when the sun is out and the weather is warm. Can you think of a better excuse to take a break than butterfly watching?

Butterfly garden design tips:

Give them shelter
If your garden is windy, provide a windbreak. A hedge of lilacs is good because it provides nectar in spring and shelter the rest of the season. Walls and fences slow down the wind and also make a nice backdrop for plants.

Create a drinking pool
Butterflies “puddle” to take in needed nutrients and salts. You can make an artificial mud puddle with a shallow dish or saucer. Fill your shallow vessel half with sand and half with composted manure. Add water to your mud puddle and top it off with a piece of decaying fruit and watch how many butterflies stop by!

A start in the sun
Although butterflies may rest and hibernate in wooded areas, they only fly well when their wings are warm and dry. A rock in a sunny place is a good spot where they can prepare for a day of flying.

A family-friendly location
Butterflies choose specific plants on which to lay their eggs so the caterpillars will have lots of food as soon as they hatch. If you want to see the caterpillars form chrysalises and emerge as butterflies, grow the plants the caterpillars love. Some foods caterpillars love are milkweed for monarchs, parsley for black swallowtails and snapdragons for buckeyes.

Go easy on sprays
Handpicking and spot treating with insecticidal soap are the safest ways to get rid of unwanted insects without harming butterflies.  

Read more about butterflies

Offered below, for your viewing pleasure, is  a PBS documentary on the amazing Monarch migration - condensed into 5 minutes.

If you enjoy this website, you might like my magazine, Gardening Life.

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  1. I usually garden in the afternoon during the kids' nap time, so I am fortunate to enjoy all the butterflies that come then. They are such a joy!

  2. Hello Debra, so good to meet you! I loved this article on butterflies, even though it will be a long time before either of us sees any, right? I also read your post on your garden cottage, too. What a beautiful structure and it's all made from found objects. Amazing what can be done with recycled materials. I love the color, too!

    We're constantly making stuff around here, but the grates will have to wait until warmer weather. Now it's all about getting back to the stained glass, a pasttime that gets put on the back burner when gardening season hits.

    You have a lovely blog!

  3. Indie, it is always a bit challenging to garden with little ones in tow. Do you plan to introduce them to your garden as they get old enough? I actually have that topic on my "to blog about" list. Children and gardens go so well together. Our grandchildren love it in my garden!

    Karen, yes. Sadly our butterflies are wintering in Mexico. Hopefully they laid many eggs near our gardens before they left!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. I do enjoy butterfly watching. Sadly the seems to be a dramatic decline in the amount of butterfly's around here in Ireland over the past few years. I fear it may have to do with the changing climates, we have been getting wetter summers (if that's even possible for Ireland) and colder winters.

  5. Hi Debra - Another one of those posts I learnt from! I did not know about the mud puddles and I will put snapdragons on my shopping list! I do enjoy butterflies a lot and stopped spraying and am just letting nature take its course in my garden now - the result is a lot more butterflies!

  6. Hello Debra, I just stopped by for the first time. I love butterfly bushes. Mine grows in terrible soil, takes my hack job prunings, and still grows into a lush and beautiful bushes.

    Any tips on gardening with children would be lovely. Honestly, I find it difficult to do with all my little ones gleefully digging and planting in the beds. The end results are worth it but the process is not relaxing. :-)

    Here are my garden :

  7. We used ot have clouds of Monarch in August but no more. Very disturbing. On a happier note I am celebrating my 4th blogoversary with a Giveaway. Come and visit.

  8. Oh, so pretty! I also like the white color bludelia which unfortunately I don't really have in my garden.

  9. Thank you so much for your comments, everyone. I will be posting a list of plants and the types of butterflies they attract in one of my upcoming articles. I am concerned the butterflies are in decline in some of your areas. Perhaps if we are proactive and plant some food for their caterpillars to feed on?

    Summer, gardening with children is on my list of things to blog about - thank you for your interest!

  10. Hi Debra! I've come a visiting :D About that list of butterflies, would it be possible for you to include pictures of their caterpillars too? My Desert Roses (Adenium) are frequently happily eaten up (both leaves & buds, ALL of them!) by small green caterpillars with a black tip/horn at the end. I'm not sure whether they are moth caterpillars or butterfly caterpillars & are loathe to destroy them but really, my Adenium plants are too pitiful!


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