Grow a Butterfly Garden
Part of the Butterfly Conservatory exhibition.
A butterfly garden, large or small, can attract butterflies to your back yard. Here are some tips for creating your own garden:
- Sunny gardens attract the most butterflies, so plant in the brightest part of your garden.
- Some important details to consider are sunny spots for basking, shelter from wind and rain, and sources of fresh water. Mud or sand puddles are used by adult male butterflies to obtain essential salts, needed for reproduction.
- Nectar plants provide food for a variety of adult butterflies, while different host plants, which supply caterpillars with food, attract specific species. Keep in mind that nectar plants may also serve as host plants to some species. You may want to include both in your garden.
- Most caterpillars feed only on specific types of host plants, so female adult butterflies deposit their eggs only on the plants their offspring will eat. By including host plants in your garden, you can witness the entire life cycle of the butterfly.
- Choose plants that will bloom at different times throughout the season. Try experimenting with a variety of plants that appeal to different butterfly species.
- Pesticides can harm butterflies, so avoid using them whenever possible.
- Do some research before you begin planting to determine which plants to use and how much space is required. Butterfly gardening and websites can help you make decisions. Also, ask your local native plant society if there are restrictions on particular plant species in your area.
Here are some Northeastern nectar plants to consider for your butterfly garden. Some are common garden flowers, while others are wildflowers that may be more difficult to find:
Some of the butterflies that utilize these plants for nectar include:
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)
Eastern Tailed Blue (Everes comyntas)
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton)
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
European Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)
Consider experimenting with some butterfly host plants as well. Here are some possibilities for your Northeast butterfly garden:
Grow a Butterfly Garden by Liz Primeau, et al. Hardcover (March 2000)
The Butterfly Garden by Judith Levicoff. Paperback (October 1994)
Creating a Butterfly Garden: A Guide to Attracting and Identifying Butterfly Visitors by Marcus H. Schneck. Paperback (May 1994)
Grow a Butterfly Garden by Wendy Potter Springer. Paperback (September 1990)
The Butterfly Garden: Turning Your Garden, Window Box, or Backyard into a Beautiful Home for Butterflies by Mathew Tekulsky, Robert M. Pyle (Designer). Paperback (January 1986)
The Butterfly Garden by Mathew Tekulsky, Robert M. Pyle (Designer). Hardcover (December 1985)
For more on butterflies–check out this page!