Butterflies, like birds, are attracted to colourful plants that produce the food they eat at various stages of their lives.
To attract butterflies into your garden, you need to support these little critters at every stage of their life cycle. It’s a very worthy goal. Not only will you have the pleasure of watching them flutter around your garden, you’ll also be providing a valuable service. Creating a habitat for butterflies means encouraging some of the most effective pollinators.
At the recent 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show, the ‘Butterflies Live’ exhibition made guests aware that butterfly populations have decreased by 90% over the past few years. Because butterflies are important pollinators, like bees, this can seriously impact the production of fruit and vegetables.
What plants will attract butterflies?
The answer will vary depending on the stage of the butterfly lifecycle. As butterflies hatch from eggs, you will need plants on which the tiny caterpillars can feed. The trouble is that they have voracious appetites and can strip plants of their leaves!
During this stage, the caterpillar will undergo several skin moults. Eventually the final stage before becoming a butterfly is the chrysalis stage, when the caterpillar becomes a pupa hidden under the protective walls of an outer shell or chrysalis.
While hiding away, the caterpillar is undergoing a metamorphasis where they develop their wings and their body structure changes to the body of a butterfly. Once the butterfly is fully formed, it then breaks out of the chrysalis and the wings slowly unfurl and dry out until it is ready to take flight.
Once the butterfly begins to fly it goes in search of food. Only this time, it’s not leaves it needs. Butterflies feed on nectar of flowers, which is how they pick up the pollen and transport it to other plants which become pollinated.
The best way to attract butterflies is to use a combination of colour and nectar producing plants. As flowers produce nectar and flowers are usually colorful, this means planting lots of flowering plants.
Here’s a list of some of the plants which attract butterflies like magnets:
– black eyed Susans
– butterfly bush
– bee balm
– most fruit bearing flowers
– golden rod
– cone flower
plus many more. Come in and chat with our horticulturalists who can advise you as to what will work best in your garden.
In your garden, create spaces by grouping plants, including shrubs, so that there is shelter when it rains or gets too hot and there is a place for the butterflies to rest overnight under leaves. Provide a nice flat rock that can warm up in the sun, allowing butterflies to sit resting with wings outstretched when the sun shines in early spring.
You can even create a pretty butterfly house in your garden where they can spend the winter in hibernation. Yes, butterflies hibernate! They do so at all stages of the life cycle, although they will more than likely choose a hibernation spot somewhere amongst the shrubs, in a log pile, or in any number of sheltered spots in your garden. Still, the butterfly house is a nice accessory in the landscape and if it is surrounded and sheltered by the plants they love, they may surprise you by adopting it!