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Article: How Butterfly Gardens Work

Created on: Monday, June 09, 2003

A butterfly garden can be as big or small as you'd like it to be, but it should always meet the following criteria:

  • There must be two kinds of butterfly flowers -food plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies.
  • Although butterflies look for shade on scorching hot days, they require sunlight to keep their body temperature high enough to be able to fly -between 85-100 degrees F.- so a butterfly garden is best planned for full sun. Sun speeds development of caterpillars, which enhances their chances for survival. Add rocks to the garden, which will absorb heat and provide a place for butterflies to bask and maintain heat requirements.
  • A butterfly garden should be protected from the wind. Wind cools the air, which reduces butterfly movement, and wind creates currents that make it harder for butterflies to move about and feed, mate, and lay eggs.
  • Color plays a major role in attracting butterflies. They don't have keen eyesight but they can identify colors, and their preferences include purple, pink, yellow, and white, so keep these colors in mind when planning your garden. Butterflies rely on their ability to see ultraviolet colors that we cannot see on certain flowers, light a bright ring around the yellow center of a daisy.
  • Other attractions for butterflies include feeders which look like flowers and hold a 10% sugar-water solution, a water attraction such as a mud puddle or wet sand, a tray for rotting fruit which some butterflies like better than nectar, and overwintering protection such as butterfly boxes, log piles, tree crevices, and bark mulch.
  • Pesticides have no place in a butterfly garden; that includes aerosols used for mosquito control, herbicides that kill lawn weeds, and the obvious garden pest controls like BT, Sevin, and Diazanon.

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