As I touched on in my earlier post titled Three Years Later, creating a backyard habitat is a great way to invite back the native plant and wildlife species to your yard. Constant development displaces wildlife, so it’s important to do the best we can to help bring it back. It's no secret that I’m partial to birds, and attracting them to my backyard is a top priority, but I’m not stopping there.
Often unnoticed, butterflies play an important role in maintaining the balance in nature, and like birds, they provide lots of color and movement throughout the garden.
So my newest project is just that - creating habitats for attracting butterflies.
Two weekends ago I attended a free class offered by a local nursery on butterfly gardening. As a result, I obtained lots of great information, as well as some new plants to add to my wish list. The downside is that my ever-growing list of plants to buy has now exceeded my wallet! Isn't that always the case? Regardless, the class was fun and very informative.
To attract the largest variety of butterflies to your landscape provide a few host plants mixed in with their favorite nectar plants. Host plants, specific to each species, provide a place for butterflies to lay their eggs and provide food for the butterfly larva (caterpillars). The first time I experienced the effect of host plants was last summer when I noticed lots of little caterpillars on my carrot and parsley plants.
My daughter and I collected one of these caterpillars and placed it in an aquarium. We feed and watched it for several weeks until it emerged from its chrysalis stage into a gorgeous butterfly - pretty amazing!
Here are some more tips that I learned from my recent class:
- Studies show that color, fragrance and shape of the flower as reasons for butterflies visiting specific flowers.
- Butterflies like to conserve energy and therefore prefer plants that have clusters of flowers so they can sit and sip nectar without exerting much energy.
- Provide water for butterflies by sinking a shallow birdbath or pail filled with sand into the ground. Fill it with water to the top of the sand layer and place a few rocks or sticks in the sand for the butterflies to perch on.
- Most butterflies don't lay their eggs all in one place, so provide host plants in various locations throughout the landscape.
I still have lots more to learn on the subject of butterflies, so if you have some additional tips or favorite butterfly plants you want to tell me about please do so.