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Butterfly Garden

June 10, 2002

 Is your yard a haven for butterflies? It’s easier than you think! A successful butterfly garden feeds caterpillars and butterflies throughout the season. More food plants for caterpillars and flowers for butterflies brings more of both to your garden spring through fall.

Is your yard a haven for butterflies? It’s easier than you think! A successful butterfly garden feeds caterpillars and butterflies throughout the season. More food plants for caterpillars and flowers for butterflies brings more of both to your garden spring through fall.

Caterpillars eat many different plants, but have rather specific tastes. Many like to eat the same things we do. If you are trying to attract lots of caterpillars you will have to plant enough for them and you! Caterpillar favorites are plants in the carrot and cabbage family and many types of herbs, especially those in the parsley family. Many weeds, such as, dandelions, milkweed and plantains are also caterpillar food sources. If you can fight the urge to pull or kill a few weeds in your garden, you may be rewarded with more types of caterpillars and butterflies.

Butterflies are attracted to many varieties of flowering plants, both for food sources and as places to lay eggs. Some are very choosy and lay eggs only on specific plants or families of plants. For example, monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed. The monarch butterflies will only pass through your yard on their way to a patch of milkweed. Butterflies are attracted to patches of flowers, rather than single stems with few blooms. However, some butterflies are not nectar feeders, but feed on rotting fruit.

Both butterflies and caterpillars appreciate resting and hiding places. Rocks make good hiding places for caterpillars and great resting places for butterflies. A sun-warmed rock is very attractive to cold-blooded butterflies. Water is also a key feature to a successful butterfly garden. Butterflies do drink water! Water provides essential nutrients needed to survive. Shallow bowls low to the ground with partially submerged rocks are ideal. The more variety you can provide in habitat, the more diversity you will find in species that visit your yard.

The following simple guidelines will help attract butterflies to your garden: plant food for caterpillars and butterflies; supply low placed shallow water features; provide hiding and sunning spots; plant in patches or clusters and ignore a few weeds. Simply provide the essentials for butterflies to complete their life cycle in your yard and you have created your own butterfly haven!

The following plant list will help you get started:
 Caterpillar Menu:

  • cabbage family
  • carrot family
  • parsley family
  • fennel
  • plantain (lawn weed)
  • dandelion (lawn weed)
  • clover (lawn weed)
  • milkweed family
  • Queen-Anne’s-Lace
  • thistles
  • sedges
  • nettles

Butterfly Favorites:
ANNUAL FLOWERS

  • zinnia
  • petunias
  • phlox
  • cosmos
  • pentas
  • verbena
  • daisy
  • dianthus
  • statice
  • snapdragons
  • sunflower
  • nicotina
  • sweet peas
  • four-o-clocks
  • lantana
  • cleome
  • lunaria


PERENNIAL FLOWERS
  • Purple coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Silver Queen (Artemisia)
  • Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
  • Sedum – all varieties
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias)
  • Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida)
  • Globe Thistle (Echinops)
  • Hollyhock (Alcea)
  • Penstemon
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
  • Coreopsis – all varieties
  • Poppy (Papaver)
  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Aster – all varieties
  • Gay Feather (Liatris)
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
  • Candytuft (Iberis)
  • Sweet William (Dianthus)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia)
  • Turtlehead (Chelone)
  • Malva
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis)
  • Ornamental Onion (Allium)
  • Bellflower (Campanula)
  • Lavender (Lavandula)
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
  • Hosta
  • Lupines (Lupinus)
  • Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium)


TREES & SHRUBS
  • Willow
  • Rhododendron
  • Honeysuckle
  • Amur Privet
  • Clethra
  • Common Lilac
  • Hackberry
  • Serviceberry
  • Weigela
  • Buckeye
  • Sumac
  • Dogwood
  • Ash
  • Trumpetvine
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Berries – Raspberry, Blueberry,
    Gooseberry, etc.

COMMON MIDWEST BUTTERFLIES:
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  • Monarchs – lay eggs only on milkweed, larvae feed on milkweed
  • Viceroy – larva feed on willow, aspen,
    cottonwood & some fruit trees
  • Mourning Cloak – larva eat willow, aspen,
    birch & hackberry; adults like sap & fruit
  • Swallowtails – larva eat clovers, alfalfa,
    marigolds & vetches
  • Hairstreaks – larva eat berry plants, legumes & several trees
  • Sulphurs – larva eat parsley family, tulip-tree,
    willow, sedums
  • Whites – larva eat mustard family, especially
    cabbage & broccoli
  • Blues – larva eat legume family members &
    vetches
  • Frittilaries – larva feed on violets; adults are
    nectar & dung feeders
  • Red Admiral – larva feeds on nettles
  • Painted Lady – larva like thistle, snapdragon, hollyhocks, nettles & mallows
  • Coppers – larva eat docks & knotweeds
  • Buckeyes – larva feed on plantains &
    snapdragons
  • Skippers – larva eat grasses & legumes