Catering to Butterflies


If you undertake to plant a live butterfly garden in your yard, then you want to be sure you are not only planting the right type of flower or shrub, but also that you are planting them in the right way. You cannot just throw a bunch of wildflower seeds onto the soil and hope for the best. If your goal is butterflies in the Spring and Summer, then you are going to have to do a little bit of planning. You are going to have to be at least a little organized.

For example, a lot of gardeners believe that butterflies are drawn to a given plant because they can smell the sweet nectar. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, that’s how the butterflies feed and sustain themselves – by ingesting the nectar from live flowers, much the way bees do.

But it’s not right – it’s wrong.

In fact, a butterfly doesn’t really rely on its sense of smell much at all. Instead, it finds its way to those nurturing plants and bushes and flowers by sight. And what it is looking for is color.

But when it comes to vision, most butterflies are not as discerning as, say, a human being is. If you put ten plants with ten differently-colored blossoms in close proximity to one another, a passing butterfly would struggle too see any one of them. They actually need a bigger picture – that is, they need a field of color, or at a minimum a very broad swath of it. That’s why bushes such as lilac and forsythia are so popular with these winged insects – they offer a unified monochromatic color scheme. It’s purple and yellow, period.

And butterflies respond to that.

You need to think in a similar way with your butterfly garden. Bunch the flowers together by color. Don’t just scatter handfuls of seed and see what happens. A focused effort at catering to the butterfly’s specific needs and abilities is far more likely to yield a productive garden, one that is filled with the fluttering of live butterflies.


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