Butterflies are creatures of habit. Once they emerge from their cocoons, they immediately look forblooms to supply them with nectar. All butterflies prefer sunny open spaces, like meadows and prairies. Likewise, some of the most popular butterfly plants are meadow and prairie natives.
The most popular butterfly plant is Asclepias, the family of butterfly weeds and milkweeds. Many different types of adult butterflies will feed on butterfly weed blooms even though gardeners plant them, especially for Monarchs. You see, the Monarch caterpillars that feed on the milky sap of milkweed do not get eaten by other creatures. All species of Asclepias will host Monarchs, though the species A. tuberosa is one of their favorites and makes a great statement for the meadow bed and the dry perennial border.
Butterfly weeds are attractive, native perennials with compact green leaves and red to orange to yellow flowers. This year Van Wilgen’s has the cultivar A. ‘Hello Yellow’ with clear yellow flowers.
Another popular prairie native is the family of Echinaceas or the coneflowers. Coneflowers are great choices for the sunny perennial border. Their flower petals are called ray florets and they radiate from the flower’s central cone. We call them daisies and we see pinks, yellows, and reds; butterflies see bullseyes, targets that help them zero in on the flower’s nectar-rich cones. Dozens of butterflies are attracted to Echinaceas, like Skippers, Mourning Cloaks, and Swallowtails. We like the ‘Pow Wow’ Echinacea series at Van Wilgen’s with their easy culture and long-blooming season and a customer fan-favorite is the many-colored variety ‘Cheyenne Spirit.’
A third pick is the family of Monardas, collectively known as bee balms; some of the best perennials for pollinators. Beebalm flowers attract many species of butterflies, as well as honey bees and hummingbirds. Butterflies love Monardas for their colorful and sweetly scented flowers but are not so attracted to their pungent foliage. Gardeners love Monardas for their easy culture and long bloom season. When choosing varieties, choose the darker colors, like the reds of ‘Marshall’s Delight’ or ‘Jacob Cline.’ Butterflies see these colors better. Beebalms will bloom over the course of the summer which covers many different generations of butterflies.
Butterflies are attracted to masses of flowers. Remember this when you make your selections. Always look for long-blooming varieties and plants with prolific blooms. Stop by our garden center and garden marts for these picks and even more great plants to add to your butterfly haven. We’re here to help, both you and the butterflies.
We have seen the shadow of Spring! The white of winter snow will soon be a summer color. While you plan your spring planting, here are a couple of ideas you can add to your garden to attract summer butterflies!
Butterflies like heat and bright light. If your garden is sunny, you’re halfway home! Butterflies are attracted to reds and purples and butterflies see the best in the bright sunny garden. The sun also provides warmth and heat, as butterflies need this energy for their metabolism. Focus your efforts on the sunny side.
Add herbs to your planting scheme! If you have an herb garden already, you’re on your way! Adding ‘umbelifers’ like parsley, cilantro, dill, and fennel are great plants that provide spice for you and food for caterpillars. Fennel and dill can be added to your vegetable beds and even added to your perennial borders. All of the oregano are great additions to your garden because their flowers provide nectar to many species of butterflies! The flowers of catnips and catmints also attract a wide range of butterflies! Be sure to plant extra for yourself and your caterpillars.
The simple addition of a Buddleia/butterfly bush will give your garden a “butterfly soda fountain!” Butterfly bushes produce three times more nectar than any other summer flower! With a Buddleia, you will get a summer’s worth of flowers and a magnet that will attract the greatest number of butterflies. There are many varieties to pick from, with different heights available, making Buddleias the perfect choice for every garden. All varieties are fabulous at attracting butterflies and other pollinators. Adding one to your herb garden will also direct butterflies to your host plants and give you that classic “colonial garden” look.