The Q&A Archives: Butterflies

Question: I would like to grow a butterfly garden

Answer: Butterflies have specific favorite host plants to lay their eggs on. The plant the caterpillars feed on are not necessarily the ones the adults are attracted to. Therefore you will want to plant a variety of species for both larvae and adults. Most butterflies feed on flowers (like members of the sunflower or zinnia family) with large exposed sites to easily obtain nectar. They are attracted to gardens with lots of color, especially bright, vibrant colors with striking contrasts. The most effective way to attract them is to provide not only nectar sources for the adult butterfly but food plants for caterpillars. Butterfly larvae (caterpillars) are selective and usually feed on just one or two types of plants. If you grow these host plants, butterflies will come to lay their eggs. For nectar plants, consider lantana, verbena, salvia, mint, and rosemary. Other favorites are flowers that have flat surfaces that can be used for landing pads, such as calendula, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, aster, coreopsis, spreading fleabane, zinnia, and gaillardia. Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), buddleia, and passionvine are other excellent choices. Black Swallowtail larvae feed on both leaves and flower heads of dill, parsley, and fennel. (Annuals & Perennials): asters, Shasta daisy, purple coneflower, hollyhocks (larval host plant), nicotiana, petunia, phlox, coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, Gaillardia, Pincushion flower, cosmos, sunflowers, French marigolds (tagetes spp.), zinnias, verbena, and salvia. (Wildflowers): Milkweed (larval host plant), Butterfly Weed (larval host plant), tithonia or Mexican sunflower, Joe-Pye weeds, ox-eye daisy, gilias, verbena, Bigelow's Aster, Indian paintbrush, purple coneflower, phlox, desert globe-mallow (larval host plant), Black-eyed Susan, any sunflower family member, coreopsis, liatris, pentas, Jupiter's beard, coral bells. Herbs: yarrow, hyssop, mints, lavender, bee balm, rosemary, catnip, pineapple sage.

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