bigstock-monarchonlantana-1153315Butterflies, a universal symbol of springtime, one of the more popular pollinators, every gardener loves them. Wonderfully surprised, the most seasoned gardener grins like a toddler with a cookie when a butterfly voluntarily floats down to touch a shoulder or knee. The butterfly seemingly gaining nothing from this interaction, just stops by to say, “hello.”

Of course, some gardens are more butterfly friendly than others, as some gardeners know very well. You can even intentionally plant a butterfly garden, and make your little insect friends a little more comfortable. Butterflies, like all pollinating animals who love to drink nectar, are attracted by strong floral scents and bright colors.

Butterflies have three needs that need to be met for them to choose a place, and you’ll have to provide those if you want them in your yard. They need food, they need sunlight, and they need host plants to lay their eggs (of course, you could just provide the first two and let them put their nests in your neighbor’s tree).unspecified

As a gardener, butterfly food is the part you will provide most readily. Butterflies have pretty good vision, but you still want to plant your flowers densely by variety to make sure they notice each of the bright colors. Plant fragrant bright flowers like hibiscus, day lilies, cone flowers, coreopsis, asters, and black-eyed susans– wild flowers like dandelions, goldenrod, and butterfly weed also work really well. Buddleia, or the ‘butterfly bush’ is a must have for a butterfly garden (big surprise) because it has a strong fragrance that butterflies love. A large range of plants will attract various species of butterfly. Of course, even the most beautiful creatures have their ugly side. If you really want to attract butterflies, you also have to provide some rotting fruit and maybe some fresh manure, but be careful these things also attract wasps.

Sunlight is very important. Butterflies are insects, cold-blooded like fish and reptiles, they need to sun themselves to keep warm. Make sure your butterfly garden is in an open place that is not too windy. They will prefer areas that get at least five hours of sunlight a day.

And finally, butterflies will love your yard if you give them a place to lay their eggs. If you are anything like my great grandfather used to be, you are out in the yard every spring, swinging a rake into your trees and cursing at the caterpillar nest. But, having host plants is crucial to getting plenty of butterfly visitors, but you may not want a visibly chewed on plant as part of your garden. You could plant your host tree a little bit away from your nectar plants. Host plants need to have food ready to eat for the newly hatching larvae. Many trees and shrubs native your area will work for your local butterflies, but here are a few examples: alder, cottonwood, dogwood, plum, live oak, paw paw, rose of sharon, and maple. You have probably seen a nest of caterpillars in a tree before. They never seemed too picky to me.

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