Thursday, July 10, 2008

Plants that Attract Butterflies

If you haven't guessed it, this week is devoted primarily to the garden. We've had beautiful weather in Illinois. It has been cooler than expected for July, and less humid. As a result, some of my summer bloomers are a little slow to take off.

But, I received an email yesterday asking what plants are most likely to attract butterflies. I am happy to respond.

Our family loves gardening to attract bees, birds, and butterflies. It is a great way to teach your children about nature -- right in your own backyard. If you are interested in easy-care butterfly-friendly plants, consider the following:

  • Butterfly bush -- I have a blue butterfly bush, because it is supposed to be slightly more cold hardy than other colors. (I still have to mulch it in the winter, though, for protection on cold nights.) It can grow up to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Mine is in its second year in its current place and has grown about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It has large bloom sprays, much like a lilac, and is very fragrant. We find it becomes a home for many butterflies, but also praying mantises who like to hunt them. It is disease resistant and (maybe because of the mantises) we've never had a problem with it being attacked by bugs.

  • Orange Butterfly weed -- This is a beautiful plant that grows in native prairies and wetlands in our region. I have not had success growing it at home. But, feel free to give it a try. It serves both as a host plant and as a nectar plant for several species of butterfly. (It is actually a species of milkweed -- see next entry.)

  • Milkweed -- An obvious choice for Monarch lovers. I have pink milkweed in my wildflower garden, where it will blend in and not be disturbed by the normal traffic of the front flower bed. In my opinion, it is not nearly as attractive as Butterfly Bush or Butterfly Weed, but it is very useful if you want a 'homegrown' crop of Monarchs.

  • Stonecrop, also called "Live Forever" -- This succulent is a great addition to any sunny, rocky area. It has the ability to establish itself well, even where there is little soil. It blooms in late July with tall, flat pads of pink blossoms. Butterflies find them easy to feed from because they must land to drink nectar. Stonecrop blossoms are a sturdy platform for them. Last year, there were so many butterflies at our Stonecrop, they made a little dancing "cloud" around us. It was magical.

  • Purple Coneflower/Echinacea -- As you can see from my son's photo (below), the center of the Purple Coneflower is very attractive to butterflies of all sorts. It is easy to grow and requires very little care.

  • Speedwell -- Speedwell comes in several varieties. I have the larger, white variety (in the background of the monarch photo) and also a smaller, pink variety. It is a hardy perennial that blooms from late Spring through early Fall. Bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds love its long blooming spikes.

There are so many other plants that will attract butterflies to your garden. But the above list is a good starting place for anyone hoping to start a butterfly garden. One more hint on attracting butterflies to your garden will be useful: they need a source of moisture somewhere in the garden. I keep a clean birdbath filled with fresh water right next to my Butterfly bush. Especially in later Summer, do not underestimate the power of a good drink to these wonderful creatures.

Good luck in the garden!

Midwest Mom

p.s. -- If you have suggestions you would like to share, click "comments" and post them! We'd love to hear about your butterfly garden, too.

1 comment:

  1. Great suggestions for those that love butterflies and want to "entertain" them in their own backyard! Thanks for reminding us of such great planting ideas!


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