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December 7, 2011

Make a Butterfly Garden - Larval food plants

-by Debra Anchors

Butterfly life cycle
Butterfly larval food plants include garden perennials, vegetables, wildflowers and weeds; they also include many trees and shrubs. Instead of planning and planting a formal garden for the larva of butterflies, knowing the best larval plants and encouraging their natural growth (wherever they happen to be growing) on your property works best. 

There are four stages to a butterfly’s life:
Egg -> Caterpillar  ->Pupa  ->Butterfly

Briefly, a butterfly starts as an egg, which hatches in 5 to10 days. The tiny caterpillar starts to eat and as it gets bigger, sheds its skin 4 to 6 times. In 2 to 4 weeks, the caterpillar will be full-grown and transforms into a pupa, the stage during which its body structure will change into that of an adult. Ten to fifteen days later, the adult butterfly emerges. Adults mate, the females lay eggs and the cycle begins all over again.

The links below will take you to lists of butterflies and the plants necessary to sustain them. Be sure not to miss the video on each page to gain even more information.

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

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  1. Have you looked at Beautiful Wildlife Garden? I have a badge with link on my sidebar. Looks as if you would enjoy that one.

  2. Great list! Gardening for butterflies and other wildlife is one of the primary aims of my garden. Definitely so rewarding!

  3. Thank you for taking a few minutes to share your thoughts - so kind of you.

    Did you happen to watch the Spicebush Swallowtail Caterpillar video on the R-Z page? I learned a great deal by researching for this article and that was really interesting.

  4. Great information, working on this concept in our gardens as well.

  5. Very informative! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. my sister would love to read more about this. she has beautiful gardens and keeps adding to them. thank you!

  7. I admire your interest in butterflies, and their host plants, have you considered linking to comprehensive lists?
    One of my favourites showing the butterfly picture next to the host plant is One of the best sites for the hawkmoth family
    I'm a big fan of butterfly gardening, and linking to the information seems a better use for my time than attempting to build lists from scratch...

  8. Hi Stone - thank you for your comment. I provided a link to the best comprehensive list of butterflies I have found. It is at the bottom of my post in Butterfly Gardening R-Z (link found at right).

    I am a proponent of resourcing information whenever possible also - and from more sources than one. Your link above does a nice job of illustrating Texas butterflies, but the list is not all-inclusive. Most lists I have found are not all-inclusive which is the reason for providing as much information as possible.

  9. Perfect info for my school garden project -- thanks!!!

  10. You are most welcome, Dianne. I am pleased you find it useful; hopefully you found the links to visit the supporting pages. The video I have linked to (Butterflies and their food plants R-Z) about the Spicebush Caterpillar will amuse and delight the children, I think.

    Thank you very much for stopping by. Please visit again soon ~Debra

  11. Very helpful, I'm just beginning to get my butterfly garden plants planted!

  12. What a great list of butterflies and their host plants! It's one of the most thorough I've seen. My family loves butterflies and we attract and raise them indoors during the summer. I am always expanding my garden with new butterfly plants. Once you start it's hard to stop! It is a passion! I tweeted this - thanks!

    1. Hi Kelly - thank you for the tweet! You are right about butterflies being a passion; I love them too. Thank you for stopping by -Debra


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