While many of us spend much of our time trying to keep insects out of our garden, there are some species that we’d like to attract. Beyond being beautiful, butterflies are an important pollinator for your garden, and attracting them is easy if you have the right plants around. A butterfly garden will provide you with beautiful flowers and butterflies to gaze upon, as well as give the butterflies food and a place to call home.
Milkweed (Asclepias) is an important food source and habitat for the Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, one of North America’s most traveled and beloved species. It takes four generations, from egg through caterpillar to butterfly, for these intrepid creatures to complete one circuit of their migration from the northern US to Southern Mexico and back. There has been a recent movement across the country to make Milkweed widespread to provide habitat for these fragile travelers.
There are many other plants that will attract different kinds of butterflies to your garden. Some of them are preferred by butterflies for their nectar, such as heliotrope (Heliotropium), salvia, lantana, butterfly bush (Buddleia), marigolds (Tagetes), cape plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora), and lilac verbena (Verbena lilacina).
Others are used primarily by butterflies to nurture their caterpillars, such as passionvine (Passiflora), lupines (Lupinus), snapdragon (Antirrhinum), cabbage (and other members of the Brassicaceae family), dill (Anethum graveolens), and parsley (Foeniculum vulgare). Many of these have other uses as well, whether as herbs, vegetables, beautiful flowers, or, in the case of marigolds, to ward off pests. Most of these species can thrive even with caterpillars munching on them a bit.
If you’d like to see lots of butterflies around, consider sharing some of your garden to give them a place to rest and feed while they’re around. Any of the staff at Parkview Nursery would be glad to give advice on which species of plants will work well in your garden and keep your favorite butterflies coming back to say hello.