Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Northern & Central Midwest

February, 2004
Regional Report

Plant Masses of Flowers for Butterflies

Plant an abundance of flowers in large groups instead of a few isolated plants. This offers more nectar to them at a single stop. Plant flowers of different heights to draw a variety of butterflies. Taller shrubs can serve as a backdrop for the shorter flowers.

Use Native Plants to Feed Butterflies

Learn about local butterflies so you can provide the right match of plants. Some butterflies have a favorite nectar plant, and some need a specific host plant where they will lay eggs. Many native plants are perfect for attracting and keeping butterflies around the garden, and they typically need little maintenance.

Select the Right Flowers to Attract Butterflies

Use plants with clusters of flowers because they provide an easier landing spot than single flowers. Butterflies see more colors than humans do and seem to prefer red, orange, yellow, purple, and dark pink. A large, colorful garden is easy for butterflies to find, and encourages them to stay longer.

Provide Host Plants for Butterfly Larvae

Plant an adequate supply of host plants to give butterflies a place to lay their eggs. You can rely on wildflowers for larval hosts if there are appropriate ones nearby, such as milkweed, thistles, violets, Queen Anne's lace and nettles.

Keep Pesticides Out of the Butterfly Garden

Don't use insecticides and herbicides because they often indiscriminately kill butterflies or their larvae. Use alternative control methods, such as oils, soaps, and microbial insecticides like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). However, do remember that Bt is toxic to caterpillars, whether sprayed directly on them or on plants on which they feed.


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