Many Pagans consider nature to be sacred and enjoy inviting the wild creatures of our neighborhood to share our gardens with us. A butterfly garden is an excellent way to do this. With just a little extrawork and consideration in the selection of your plants, you can create a haven for butterflies that will also attract bees, birds and many other delightful creatures. Their energy will in turn transform your garden into a delightful haven that brings comfort to you and anyone else who spends time in it.
Select a spot for your garden that is sunny, but sheltered from the wind. The garden should get 5-6 hours of sunlight per day. Butterflies like to be in the warm sun, but don’t like to fight winds. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures and need to regulate their body temperature externally. Thus, it is helpful to provide a few flat rocks in sunny places for the butterflies to rest on and sun themselves.
If you use pesticides in your garden, you will kill the butterflies and caterpillars, it’s as simple as that. Resist the urge and go organic. It’s better for you in the long run. If the caterpillars are eating your favorite plant, plant more! Or you could look into a book on the subject and find another plant the caterpillars will eat and move them.
Butterflies, like everybody, need to drink. You can provide a water source for them by keeping a shallow mudpuddle moist, maintaining a shallow fountain, or just putting out a little dish with water in it for them. The key word here is shallow. I’ve lost caterpillars to drowning in empty pots that I let fill up with rain water. It was very sad.
Some people like to put out butterfly feeders. This is really not necessary, but it can be fun, and it doesn’t hurt anything. The best thing to use in the feeders is just plain old sugar water and the best feeder I’ve seen was an inverted frizbee with a little sugar water inside. Setting out pieces of overripe fruit, such as apple, banana and citrus fruit, will also help keep your butterflies happy.
Butterfly houses will give your butterflies a safe place to hide out of reach of predators. You can find a nice wooden house and a alot more information about butterflies at many gardening centers. They are also reasonably easy to make.
Inviting butterflies to your garden can mean caterpillars, so be prepared to share. Plant a variety of plants that caterpillars like to encourage them not to eat all your treasured herbs. Soon, you’ll have a new batch of butterflies to enjoy!
Some plants that caterpillars eat are:
Parsley, Dill, Milkweed, Fennel, Hackberry, violets, Clover, Snapdragons, Queen Anne’s Lace, joe-pye-weed, Peas, Fruit Trees, alfalfa and more
Adult butterflies eat nectar, for the most part, so you’ll want to fill your garden with long-blooming, fragrant flowers. When planting flowers to attract butterflies, you’ll want to plant flowers with varying blooming times to keep the butterflies attracted all season long.
If you have limited space and/or experience, a good, simple combination for a starter garden that pleases both adult butterflies and their larvae is – Buddleia, violets, verbena, parsley, [[[dill]], fennel, milkweed, [[coneflower]]], lantana, cosmos, and zinnias. You can expand your garden as the years go by and you get more experienced and adventurous.
If you would like to invite specific types of butterflies to your garden, select your plants with those species in mind.
Types of butterflies and their preferences-
Adult- Aster, Dogbane, dogwood, goldenrod, pepperbush
Larva- Queen Anne’s Lace
Adult- Buddleia, joe-pye-weed
Larva- Turtlehead, false foxglove, plantain
Adult- Milkweed, Vibernum, Wild rose
Larva- Parsley, Dill, Fennel
Adult- Aster, Buddleia, joe-pye-weed, alfalfa
Larva- Snapdragon, loosestrife
Adult- Aster, Milkweed, chickory, cor