Butterflies are like magic; the colors, patterns, movement, and embodiment of nature delight children and adults alike.
A garden that includes many plants that are food sources for butterflies and their larvae (caterpillars) bring these tiny creatures nearer to our lives. If you truly desire having adult butterflies around you should make sure to provide both nectar sources for adults and the specific plants that their larvae need to munch on.
Choose a spot for your butterfly garden that gets full sun for most of the day and is sheltered from winds. It’s also desirable to be located where it will be noticed often: along a path, outside a window that you look through frequently, or by an entryway. Consider the maintenance requirements of the plants that you choose, making sure that they will receive enough moisture, drainage, etc. You may also want to consider placing some comfortable seating amongst the plants for your own viewing pleasure. Keep binoculars and a butterfly identification guide on hand to increase your knowledge and add to the fun.
Leaving some patches of tall grass or unkempt weeds in an out of the way part of your property provides the shelter that most butterfly species need to get out of the rain or for resting at nighttime.
Adult butterflies need water and trace minerals as well as nectar. If you don’t have such a spot already you can provide this for them by creating small damp puddles where they can stop and sip. This can be accomplished by digging out a shallow depression an inch or two deep & about two feet wide in a frequently watered area. Alternatively, a bucket of sand can be sunk into the ground and kept wet.
When temperatures are cooler, butterflies need to warm their flight muscles & blood by basking with their wings open to soak up warmth from the sun. Placing some large south facing stones will facilitate this for them and provide you with some excellent viewing opportunities.
Depending on the species, butterflies spend the winter in different life stages, seeking shelter in all sorts of places in your yard. Fallen leaves and dry stalks provide places for species that pupate near the soil. You may find chrysali- des among the branches or leaves of larval host plants. Tidying up your garden in the fall after the glory days of summer can deprive the butterflies of these vital winter habitats so please leave some areas of plant mess about for your winged friends!
Butterflies can be harmed by many garden sprays, including organic types. Ask us about safer solutions, or remove treated flowers to keep butterflies from visiting sprayed plants.
Having a garden that is a welcoming place for butterflies can be a real joy. There are a lot of butterflies that are native to our region, and one way to be able to best attract them is by planting natives.
Most butterflies require specific host plants to provide for all stages of life; eggs to caterpillar, chrysalis to butterfly. Butterflies are less picky about nectar sources, so adding non-native nectar plants (so long as they are non-invasive) is fine by us.
Many people mistakenly focus all their attention on the nectar plants to attract the adults, without equal attention to the larval plants that will feed the growing caterpillars — helping to insure that you will have generations of returning butterflies to your garden.
Many of the NW Native plants we carry at the nursery are good butterfly plants as well as good garden plants. Here is just a partial list of what we usually see during the year:
Find a list of natives and non-natives for attracting butterflies in our pdf: Inviting Butterflies into your Garden.
For a list of natives that attract butterflies and that we normally carry, refer to this list: Native Plants to Attract Butterflies
Attracting butterflies to your garden requires more time and patience than attracting birds. There are also considerations of placement of plants and providing a water source. Below are some links that should go a long way to helping you set up a garden area attractive to butterflies:
• Willamette Valley Native Host Plants for Butterflies
• Willamette Valley Native Nectar Plants for Butterflies