Swallowtail Butterfly on Flower

Build a Butterfly Garden

February 27, 2023
Sue Adams

Let’s build a butterfly garden to attract these colorful pollinators, doing our small part to help the environment.

All butterfly gardens are flower gardens. But what are their favorites? Butterflies are attracted to red, orange, yellow, pink and blue flowers and like blossoms they can stand on while feeding, as well as those that grow in clusters of tiny blooms. Here are some of their favorites:

Thirsty butterflies need water. Although they’ll drink plain water, there are simple ways to provide the minerals they crave as well:
• Build a mud puddle. Scrape away mulch in a small spot, creating a shallow divot in the soil. Keep it moist
• Fill saucers with sand and saturate it with water. Remember to keep the sand wet.
• Offer bananas or other pieces of fruit.
• Set out a mineral block (salt block sold at feed stores).

Butterflies are like mushrooms. If you take the time to observe, you’ll see many more varieties than you expected. Some to look for include:
• Red Admiral
• Mourning Cloak
• Fritillary
• Tiger Swallowtails
• Skippers (heads are larger than their bodies, and they look a little like horseflies)
• Giant Swallowtail (not usually found in the north but has visited my flower garden)
• White Sulpher (one you may not want to see as their dreaded green worms hide in the broccoli

Baby butterflies are caterpillars. Let them chomp on your plants! What’s a few holes here and there when you can later delight in watching beautiful butterflies flitting from flower to flower? Caterpillars are fussy eaters. Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed. The native Black Swallowtail caterpillar likes parsley, dill, fennel, carrots and Queen Anne’s Lace. Spicebush caterpillars favor spicebush, a shrub in the laurel family, and Painted Lady caterpillars like thistles and plants in the malvacea (Mallow Family). Plant the host plants and add nectar rich flowers for the butterflies that emerge.

And there’s an added bonus to growing a butterfly garden: you’ll be attracting bees, hummingbirds and birds to your garden as well. Great pollinators for gorgeous gardens. Flowers and butterflies, a wonderful combination to enjoy!