Attract butterflies to your garden to bring charm to a perfect summer’s day. There’s something about the way they flit about from flower to flower that makes it all so carefree, don’t you agree?
Not just good to look at
But they’re not just good to look at… Butterflies are excellent pollinators and they play an important part in the ecosystem of your garden.
Here are 10 ways to attract these beautiful and beneficial insects to your garden.
How to attract butterflies to your garden
- Provide nectar plants for adult butterflies, all season, not just the summer months
By far the most important way to attract butterflies is to provide lots of nectar plants. It’s what they feed on during the summer and it’s also what they need for stores if they overwinter or migrate to warmer areas.
- Plant a wide variety of native flowers
If you consider the many thousands of types of butterflies each with their own preferences you can see that a variety of nectar sources is called for if you want to attract butterflies. Large butterflies prefer large flowers simply because of the extra landing-room. Small butterflies aren’t able to drink from deep flowers. So when choosing flowers try to provide a variety of shapes, colours and sizes.
You might want to attract a particular species of butterfly such as one that is found locally. You might be able to discover what species are in your area on the internet or look up a field guide to see which plants they prefer.
Native plants will always be the best choice to attract butterflies as they are already on their menu.
- Plant flowers in large groups and bright colours
Flowers need to be close by for butterflies to see them. If flowers aren’t within 10–12 feet they will just be a blur to butterflies. Large areas of the same colour will invite butterflies to take a closer look.
Attract butterflies by making a home for caterpillars too
- Provide host plants for caterpillars
You’re not just welcoming butterflies, you’re feeding caterpillars. Many caterpillars prefer trees and shrubs rather than the plants that adult butterflies flock round so try to include some woody plants too in your garden.
Sometimes caterpillars can be fussy eaters, eating only one type of leaf until they turn into a butterfly. So again the key is to grow a variety of plants in order to attract different species.
Female butterflies will be scouting your garden looking for places to lay their eggs so make sure you have greenery as well as flowers.
- Choose a sunny site
Butterflies love basking in the sun with their wings extended to soak up the sun’s energy. Create some rocky areas where they can relax between feeds. Like all insects butterflies rely on the sun’s energy to warm their bodies.
Most nectar-rich plants benefit from partial to full sun so they’ll benefit from a sunny spot as much as the butterflies.
Butterflies can’t fly when temperatures fall below about 55 °F. So plan to site your butterfly habitat in the sunniest spot of your garden.
- Make puddles
Butterflies need to drink water but they don’t visit pretty birdbaths – they take up moisture (and minerals) from puddles. Include some puddling sites in your butterfly habitat. One option is to sink a dish into the ground, fill with sand and add water each day to keep it wet.
Butterflies look for a safe place
- Protection from the wind
It takes energy for butterflies to struggle against wind currents so to attract butterflies make sure your garden offers some shelter. If your garden is exposed you could plant tall shrubs or build a fence as a windbreak.
- Keep bird feeders out of your butterfly habitat
This simply avoids the predator-prey relationship of birds and insects. You don’t want to encourage caterpillars only to make them a feast for the birds. Of course you don’t want to neglect the birds altogether – simply choose a different area of the garden.
- Provide shelter for overwintering butterflies
Most butterflies overwinter until the spring. Make sure to provide a butterfly house or other nesting place such as loose bark or fallen leaves. If you want to attract butterflies don’t brush it all away!
- Go organic – don’t use pesticides or chemicals
Chemicals such as malathion that kill insects are going to be a bad idea if you want to attract butterflies. If pests are a problem try organic methods first. That means attracting beneficial insects to take care of the pests rather than ‘nuke’ them with a spray.
If you want to attract butterflies to your garden the key is to take lots of these steps. You don’t have to do them all but the more the merrier 🙂