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Butterflies Welcome

by dig the dirt editor

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Swallowtail on thistle
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How to start a butterfly garden

It’s always nice to have a few plants in your landscape for a butterfly garden. With a few simple guidelines, you can create a butterfly oasis from Spring through Fall.

Butterflies are cold blooded, so they need a sunny location to warm up their flight muscles, like a flat rock to perch on, and flowers that produce nectar. Coincidentally, most of the plants the butterflies like are sun lovers. To see butterflies throughout their life cycle, provide both host plants for the eggs and caterpillars and nectar sources for the butterflies. 

Plant a variety of flowers that bloom through the seasons – suggestions include Zinnia, Verbena and Asters for Spring and Lantana, Penta, Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) and Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) for Summer. Blue Mist Flower is a butterfly magnet in the Fall. My Purple Lantana has been blooming for weeks and is covered with butterflies on our warm days.

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Host plants are essential for the butterfly garden, but beware, the little caterpillars can strip a plant of its leaves, however, the plant will recover. Keep this in mind when planting Passion Vines for the Gulf Fritillary and Dill, Fennel and Parsley for the Black Swallowtail.  Plant a few for the butterflies and a few for yourself. If you want to attract Monarch Butterflies, be sure to plant some Milkweed, their only larval host plant. 

When planning and preparing your landscape for butterflies, don’t use pesticides on or near the butterfly garden. The pesticides are toxic to them. Use insecticidal soap or catch the pests by hand instead.

I always love to watch the black swallowtail caterpillars on my fennel plants. Last year I was fortunate enough to even have one form a chrysalis in my vegetable garden and watch it emerge.  It was magical. Wishing you each many opportunities to pause and see what’s happening in your garden this spring. --M.Tate

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