You can’t beat lying on a hammock in the garden with gazillions of butterflies fluttering around you. Create your own butterfly garden and start attracting these flitting, flapping beauties into your yard.
According to Better Homes & Gardens, you want a sunny spot, nectar-rich flowers, a little garden ‘chaos’ and a mud puddle. Yes, a mud puddle! Who would have thought pretty butterflies would be attracted to mud!
When planting butterfly friendly gardens, do so in a sunny spot that offers protection from the wind. Butterflies use the early morning sun to warm themselves and retreat to cooler, shadier places during the heat of the day. Okay, they like moisture too – see below under ‘Mud Puddles’ for how to simulate this environment!
Create a butterfly garden by planting colourful beds en-masse, particularly in blue, yellow and red. Some research suggests grouping plants together according to colour, creating ‘big colourful clusters that butterflies just can’t resist’ (3).
Choose nectar-rich flowers to create a butterfly meadow (they particularly like tubular or ‘long’ flowers to pollinate). Different species of butterflies are attracted to particular plants, so it would pay to determine what butterflies are native to your area before designing your garden.
Here are a list of some butterfly favourites:
*Lantana may be extremely popular for butterflies but is an obnoxious pest in Australia and best to avoid planting.
Ask at your local nursery or do a bit of visual/online research into what butterflies are native to your area. Find out what their caterpillars look like and what their favourite plants are. Apparently caterpillars are quite fussy. You need to ensure they have an appealing diet to munch on! Yes, your leaves are going to be munched but the pay off is worth it…
Caterpillar favourites include:
Shrubs & Trees – Wattles (Acacia sp.), Bush Peas (Pultenaea sp.), Purple Fan Flower (Scaevola sp.);
Grasses – Lomandra sp., Poa sp. (including australis, tenera, labillardieri,) and sedges like Gahnia sp. and Carex sp; and;
Ground Covers – Purple Coral Pea (Hardenbergia violacea), Running Postman (Kennedia prostrata).
Your butterfly garden just became even more gorgeous – attract larvae and provide shelter with the likes of Crepe Myrtle; Citrus; Paper Daisies; Kangaroo Grass; Cotton Bushes; Sassafras; Snapdragons; and Native Violets. It is dependent though on the variety of butterflies native to your area as to which they will prefer to lay their eggs on.
Avoid poisonous pesticides and products containing Bacillus thuringiensis – use organic pest control methods instead.
Butterflies love a bit of chaos so ‘untame’ your butterfly garden and create a more wild and carefree environment… a little bit like butterflies themselves.
Pretty butterflies are attracted to pretty flowers and…mud puddles. Try placing a shallow dish of muddy water in a sunny spot or alternatively dig a couple of small, shallow depressions in the dirt and periodically fill them up with water. When butterflies gather in mud puddles it is actually called ‘puddling’. They land there to suck water out of the soil, which is why it often happens ‘en masse’, creating a visual display to behold! Add a couple of flattish rocks aka sun loungers into your butterfly garden so they can land and sun themselves too. A bit like a Club Med for butterflies.
Offer an alternative butterfly food source, particularly if you are not in a position to go planting a designer butterfly garden. There are lots of websites that give instructions on how to set up – it is very easy to do and a fun weekend project to do with the family.
Better Homes and Gardens February 2001