Butterflies, those magnificent flying flowers, have facscinated us for years. They symbolize many things to us â€“ fertility, rebirth, and resurrection, to name a few. Kids love to study butterflies and witness their life cycles. With a little planning, you can create a wonderful butterfly habitat in your yard or patio. There are two types of plants needed to create a balanced butterfly garden: host plants and nectar plants. The host plants are for the caterpillars to lay their eggs on and the nectar plants are for the adult butterflies to obtain their food. Vary your plants by height also. Some butterflies like taller plants, while others prefer the low lying plants. Your plants may consist of flowers, bushes, herbs, grasses and trees. You will be doing the butterflies a favor too, as many of their habitats have been destroyed due to urban growth.
Choose a bright, sunny location for your garden. Butterflies, like flowers, like the sun and temperatures of 85 degrees or higher. Have you ever noticed you see more butterflies on sunny days than on colder, cloudy days? This is why.
Plant larval or host plants for the adult butterflies to lay their eggs on. Once your butterfly has laid eggs on the host plant, it will grow in the larva, break out, then begin to consume the leaves of the host plant. Plant a variety of host plants to attract different types of butterflies. Some common host plants are: milkweed, marigolds, parsley, and clover. Check with your local nursery to see which are viable in your locale.
To keep your butterflies around you garden, you will need to plant some nectar plants.
The nectar plants provide the "food" that your adult butterfly feeds on. You will see the butterfly using its long tongue, called the proboscis, to obtain the nectar. Some common nectar plants are: lantanas, catnip, and lavender. You can also lay out pieces of fruit for the butterflies to eat. Kiwis, bananas and watermelon attract butterflies. Also, try watering and making puddles in your garden. "Puddling" is an activity of adult butterflies whereby they huddle in groups, licking water from a puddle. You can even add a sports drink to your puddle; these drinks are sweet and contain sodium which helps the butterflies.
Go to your local nursery and ask what plants they have that would act as host and nectar plants for butterflies. Plants are sometimes marked as being "butterfly friendly." Visit more than one nursery since different ones may have different plants. An added bonus: plants that attract butterflies oftentimes attract hummingbirds as well.