It is easy to roll out the welcome mat for butterflies.
It is easy to roll out the welcome mat for butterflies. All you have to do is grow the kinds of flowers they need for food and shelter. Butterflies like the warmth of the sun so you need to locate your butterfly garden in the sunniest part of your yard.
Your garden should feature many brightly colored flowers that butterflies adore; a variety of herbaceous perennials and quite a few annuals. In the summer, plant orange butterfly weed, purple cone flowers, yellow and orange marigolds and nasturtiums and red bee balm, which is also very popular with honey bees.
In the fall, pink and purple flowers will fill your garden as butterfly bush and asters come in to bloom. And of course, the butterflies add a layer of color that floats over the flowers.
One last thing to remember – butterflies are insects. You can’t spray any chemical pesticides or even organic pesticides in your butterfly garden or near it. Pesticides will kill the larva of the butterflies and the butterflies themselves. So, if you want a butterfly garden, leave the pesticides in the tool shed.
And even though it’s early July, it is not too late to plant a butterfly garden that will flourish this year. Here’s a list of annuals, perennials and small shrubs to buy to create your own butterfly garden:
“Autumn Joy” sedum – In the fall, the flowers of this classic perennial are covered with butterflies. Plants form attractive two-foot mounds that have all-season interest. Very hardy and easy to grow.
Bee balm – Monarda didyma. Red, pink or white flowers adorn these two-to-four-foot tall perennials. Leaves can be used for tea. Earl Grey tea gets its distinctive taste from bee balm.
Marshal’s Delight – This is what I grow because it doesn’t spread too much and doesn’t get covered with mildew in summer.
Butterfly weed – Asclepias tuberosa. A colorful garden variety relative of common milkweed, Asclepias attracts monarchs and dozens of other butterflies. It produces clusters of bright orange flowers all summer long or two-foot tall perennial plants.
Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia hirta “Goldstrum”. This is the garden variety of the black-eyed Susan you see along the roadside. Great perennial, especially for mid-to-late summer.
Joy-Pye weed – Eupatorium purpureum. Swallowtails are especially fond of this native, fall-blooming perennial wildflower. Plants can reach three-to-four feet tall and bear huge clusters of light purple flowers in late summer and fall.
Marigolds – Tagetes spp. Most gardeners have grown marigolds at one time or another. They are a terrific addition to the butterfly garden and come in great colors of yellow, gold, red and white.
Mexican sunflowers – Tithonia. These bushy annuals attract butterflies like magnets. The daisy-like flowers are bright orange to scarlet and grow on somewhat rangy four-to-five foot tall plants.
Nasturtiums – Tropaeolum majus. Colorful annuals that do well in poor soil and container gardens. By the way, the leaves taste like watercress and are quite edible.
New England asters – Aster novae-angliae. Butterflies and bees congregate on this native fall- blooming perennial wildflower. Plants can reach three to four feet and will bear daisy-like flowers in red, purple, pink and lavender blue.
Parsley – Petroselinum crispum. Parsley foliage provides food for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. You don’t have to start them from seed; just buy a six-pack and put them in the ground. Dill is also a big food source for caterpillars that turn into butterflies or moths.
Phlox – Phlox paniculata. Plants bear domed clusters of magenta, pink or white flowers on two-to-three foot tall perennial plants. It’s a nice, old-fashioned cut flower, too.
Purple coneflowers. Echinacea purpurea. This native American perennial wildflower produces daily-like blooms all summer long. Very popular with butterflies.
Zinnias – Zinnia elegans. Zinnias are another butterfly favorite and you can’t beat them for summer-long color. They are great cut flowers. You can plant them from seed or buy them in flats.
Butterfly bush – Buddleia davidii. Although the butterfly bush dies back to the ground each winter, it is very good about coming back. Plants reach up to four feet tall and wide and the blooms appear in mid-summer until frost. Lots of different butterflies love this plant.
Lilac – Syringa vulgaris. Butterflies love lilacs because they bloom in mid-spring and provide them with a wonderful source of food when they first arrive from their southern migration. Regular French lilacs get really big, but I prefer the Miss Kim Korean lilacs instead.
There are plenty of other plants that provide food and shelter for butterflies. Cosmos and Verbena bonariensis are just two more. Plant to your heart’s content and enjoy your garden and your butterflies!
Larry Sombke is a landscape consultant, speaker, author of the book Beautiful Easy Flower Gardens and a frequent guest on Northeast Public Radio. Contact him with questions at www.beautifuleasygardens.blogspot.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.