The Q&A Archives: Planning a butterfly garden

Question: When should I plant and do I need special soil for my butterfly garden? How close should I arrange the plants?

Answer: You can begin planting in your area in late April or early May. Any good garden loam will be fine. If you haven't amended your soil lately, you can clear the garden bed of any grass or weeds, then spread 4-5" of organic matter (such as compost) over the top and dig it in to a depth of 8-10". Level the area and then plant. Each plant should be spaced so it has ample room to reach its full potential. For instance, if a plant can grow two feet high and wide, give it that much room plus another 6-12" on all sides for good air circulation.

There are a number of plants butterflies love. You can start with the Butterfly weed (Asclepias) and the Butterfly bush (Buddelia). For perennial flowers try growing daisy, mint, phlox and cornflowers. Perennials will bloom only once during the growing season, while annuals will bloom all season long. Annuals to try are tithonia, salvia, cosmos, alyssum and fennel. There are many books on butterfly gardens with designs that are probably available at your local library.

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