Butterfly Garden Basics
In order to build a great butterfly garden you need to understand a few basic requirements. The first requirement is to plant your garden with plants that will attract butterflies. I know this sounds simple but it is important. In building a butterfly garden you need to concentrate on two different types of plants. You have your nectar plants which attract the butterflies to your garden in the first place to feed. Then you have your host plants which is what butterflies lay their eggs on and what feeds the caterpillars that will turn into new butterflies. Lets take a look at both.
Nectar plants are what the butterflies will be attracted to in the first place they like flowers with the colors red, orange, yellow, and purple. You goal will to be to plant flowers that will bloom from early spring into the fall so that will mean different plants that overlap in bloom times. Always try and plant in large splashes of color rather than in little scattered pockets, it is much easier for butterflies to see large splashes of color when hunting for food. You should try and avoid big show flowers because they are bread for their size but usually are poor nectar sources. As you are developing your garden you may find that some of the plants that are recommended do no appeal to the butterflies that visit. There is nothing wrong with that but you should take note of the ones they visit most and then plant more of those next season.
Once you have attracted the butterflies to your garden you will want to keep them coming back and the way to do this is to plant host plants. These are plants that the butterfly larva which are caterpillars will eat. You will have to understand though that these plants purpose is to have their selves all eaten up in order to feed the caterpillars and therefore will not be attractive looking. Planting them amongst other plants that will shield them from view will help camouflage them a bit. Again certain plants are required if you want a particular variety of butterfly to lay eggs. A good example is you will only get monarch larvae if your have milkweed growing in your garden. That is the only plant that these caterpillars eat.
The best way to determine what plants are best for your butterfly garden is by observing what plants are planted that attract butterflies in your neighbors yard, local parks, and botanical gardens. You can also contact your local cooperative extension service they will be happy to provide the information for your region. Once you have a viable butterfly garden I think you will spend a lot of afternoons out there enjoying these beautiful and graceful creatures as they flutter from flower to flower. If you are wearing bright colors you may even find a few that want to come over and land on you.