Butterfly Garden Basics and Benefits
A well-planned butterfly garden becomes a small but representative sample of the surrounding habitat and as such provides a safe haven for butterflies and other wildlife to gather, seek shelter, acquire food and water, and reproduce.
- Major Components of a Successful Butterfly Garden
- Garden Design
- Garden Maintenance
- Benefits of Butterfly Gardening
- Herbs for Butterflies
- Butterflies of North Central Florida & Their Host Plants
- Adult nectar sources: attract and nourish adult butterflies.
- Larval host plants: attract ovipositing female butterflies, serve as a food source for developing larvae.
- Shelter: vegetation that provides protection from temperature extremes, storms/rain, and predators as well as locations for roosting/sleeping.
- Water source with fountain: allows for easy and consistent access to water for drinking and thermoregulation.
- Provide a combination of adult nectar sources and larval host plants: attracts maximum variety of butterfly species; encourages butterflies to remain in your yard, reproduce, and build populations instead of just passing through; allows gardener to appreciate all life stages.
- Incorporate native plants into the landscape whenever possible: most larval host plants are natives. They’re adapted to the region, will produce a small but representative extension of the natural ecosystem, and can attract other wildlife.
- Create horizontal and vertical heterogeneity: choosing plants that have different heights and growth habits creates numerous microclimates which in turn appeal to a greater diversity of butterfly species; provides shelter; creates levels/strata of feeding opportunities.
- Aim for a consistent host plant and floral venue throughout the growing season: choose plants that have different blooming times; ensures that garden remains attractive and productive as long as possible; provides food for butterflies during periods of low natural availability.
- Provide a number of different flower colors: different butterfly species are attracted to different flower colors so include yellow, orange, white, and blue flowers as well as reds, pinks, and purples.
- Provide a mix of flower shapes: the feeding behavior and proboscis length of a butterfly dictate which flowers will be visited: long-tubed flowers, for example are typically more accessible to species with long probosces whereas many composites (daisy-like flowers) provide a feeding platform and easy nectar accessibility for smaller species.
- Plant in shade as well as full sun: appeals to more butterfly species; many forest species prefer shadier locations.
- Plant in groupings: are aesthetically pleasing; provide masses of color; are more apparent in landscape; allow larvae to locate additional food resources in event of shortage.
- Choose appropriate plants for each location: understand each plan’s basic water, light, and soil requirements so it will perform and grow to its maximum potential.
- Give new plants a good start: water and mulch new plantings to insure firm establishment.
- Fertilize: a regular fertilizing regiment will produce maximum growth and flower production.
- Avoid pesticide application when possible: all butterfly life history stages are very sensitive to pesticides; avoid Bacillus thuringiensis; when pest problem arises treat it locally; use beneficial insects/natural enemies.
- Learn to identify the butterfly species in your garden: provides greater enjoyment; allows for gardener to “plant” for particular local species.
- Attract wildlife: bring butterflies and other wildlife into your garden for purposes of enjoyment, observation, study, and photography.
- Ecosystem/habitat conservation: a well-planned butterfly garden becomes a small, but representative sample of the surrounding habitat and as such provides a safe haven for butterflies and other wildlife to gather, seek shelter, acquire food and water, reproduce and build populations; do not underestimate the importance of even a small garden.
- Practical benefits:
- Use of native plants: hardy and drought-tolerant, disease/pest resistant, adapted to region so perform better under local conditions.
- Food for natural enemies: healthy butterfly populations attract and sustain healthy populations of beneficial insects/organisms as well as provide food for birds, lizards, mammals, etc. which in turn help control garden pests; most butterfly nectar sources also attract beneficial insects.
- Plant diversity: less susceptible to pests/individual plants less apparent in landscape; large number of microclimates provide home/shelter for other insects including beneficials.
- Scientific: keeping detailed logs on the butterfly species encountered, times, abundance can provide important and useful information on butterfly population numbers nationwide.
- Therapeutic: provide soothing retreat from every day life
- Herbs: most herbs are also excellent butterfly attractants; useful culinary plants and provide wonderful aromatherapy.