One of the things I enjoy the most about gardening is the calm that being in my garden brings me. Each season is full of so many different plants and wildlife. Like many people, one of my favorites is the butterflies. This article will show you how to set up a butterfly garden in your yard. A butterfly garden is a great way to ensure you'll have a variety of butterflies to enjoy.
Planning the Butterfly Garden
A butterfly garden can be grown in the ground, in containers or in raised beds. Choosing flowering plants that attract adult butterflies to your garden can be a simple way to start a butterfly garden. However, if you want to create a butterfly garden that is a butterfly ecosystem, you will need to do some planning. Proper planning allows you to attract a wide range of butterflies and provide them a place to grow and multiply. Considering what plants to grow and evaluating your garden site, you can create a butterfly garden that increases butterfly populations.
You can attract butterflies to your location with a wide variety of flowering plants. Keep in mind not all flowers are created equal in the compound eyes of butterflies. Choosing plants that will feed butterflies and encourage them to lay eggs will help you create a new generation of butterflies. For this, you will need plants that fall into two categories: nectar plants and host plants. Nectar plants provide energy to adult butterflies, and host plants feed caterpillars. By carefully selecting plants from these two groups, you will provide them with food for their entire life cycle.
Choosing Nectar Plants
While shopping for garden plants, you will encounter many plants labeled “butterfly friendly.” These labels are usually very accurate, and the plant will attract butterflies. If the plant is labeled butterfly friendly it is usually a good source of nectar. These plants are marketed for their bright blooms, and will not provide for the caterpillar stage of a butterfly’s life. Although many flowering plants provide nectar to butterflies, research your area to see which butterflies are native to your region. Some plants will serve as both nectar and caterpillar food plants. It may be worth searching out some of these double-duty offerings.
Choosing Host Plants
The relationship between butterflies, caterpillars and the plants they use for food is not casual. It is a relationship created over thousands of years as flowering plants developed alongside insects. As a result of this long development, caterpillars will use only certain plants for food. At the same time, butterflies are equally picky about what plants they will select to lay their eggs on. To encourage caterpillars in the garden, gardeners need to select plants that are preferred by caterpillars in their location. Nature and chemistry will take care of the rest.
Choosing Plants for Butterflies Common to Your Region
To determine which butterflies and caterpillars are local to your area, visit local gardens or nature centers. Local gardening shops can also be a great source of information. If such opportunities do not exist, many butterfly field guides also provide information about which butterflies are likely to visit gardens and what food sources they prefer. Once you have identified butterflies that are most likely to visit your garden, select their preferred caterpillar food plants and nectar plants recommended for your growing area.
Garden Site Selection
Planting a wide range of nectar and host plants is the best strategy for attracting the largest number of butterfly species. Butterflies may be attracted to the garden by a large patch of bright flowers, but they will linger longer if there are also areas that provide shelter, water, sun and a diverse group of plants that imitate the way plants grow in the wild.
Plant diversity in the garden results from choosing plants of different types, such as shrubs, trees, perennials, and even vines. In selecting plants that grow to different heights, with a variety of flower shapes and colors, it makes the bed interesting. By choosing plants that have different bloom times, you create a garden that is attractive to a wide range of butterflies. Grouping more than one plant of each type will help to unify the look of the garden and will lessen the distance that nectaring butterflies have to travel. If your garden is small and has no room for trees or shrubs, consider an arbor covered with vines to create height. There are many vines to choose from that act as nectar or caterpillar food plants.
While shrubs and trees can create unnecessary shade, they do provide an essential feature in the butterfly garden. Properly placed trees and shrubs will shelter your garden from the wind. This shelter makes it easier for butterflies to explore your location. Additionally, trees and shrubs give valuable shelter where butterflies can roost at night or hide from predators. Keep in mind that many shrubs and trees are also caterpillar food plants!
Butterflies need water, but not very much. Nectar, dew, and tree sap provide butterflies with moisture. Puddles and moist dirt or sand are also popular water sources. Puddling stations can be as simple as a damp area of ground covered with sand. Placed where they are easily viewed and sheltered from the wind, puddling stations provide dissolved salts and water.
A warm sunny location is essential for the butterfly garden. Butterflies are cold-blooded insects that often start their day by warming their bodies in the sun. Be sure to include a spot in the garden where sunlight will reach the ground early in the day. Large rocks, exposed soil, or even pavement are all surfaces that will warm up in morning sunlight. Try locating your garden where it will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily.
Once you have combined careful plant selection with the right site selection, you will have created a butterfly garden that is a microhabitat. This microhabitat will provide a unique location where butterflies can live and grow.
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