How to Design a Butterfly Garden


The decision to create a live butterfly garden means answering quite a few questions. What kind of flowers are you going to plant? What species of butterflies are likely to visit your garden? How often will you see them? And how can you encourage plenty of butterfly traffic?

These are good questions, and answering them thoughtfully and thoroughly will go a long way to ensuring a successful butterfly garden. The butterflies that are likely to show up will appreciate the care you take!
Butterfly gardenBut, all of these questions really pale before the most significant question of all. And that one you really can’t answer quickly or simply. It’s this – how should a thoughtful gardener set about designing themselves a butterfly garden? How exactly do you plan a good layout?

Start by recognizing that butterflies and human beings aren’t the same species – not even close. So our idea of what constitutes a good garden is going to be quite a bit different. Humans like to see an orderly garden – the tulips in neat rows, the roses trimmed and neat. We like to feel a sense of control over the garden. You know, the hydrangea goes here and the dwarf apple tree goes there. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to keep in mind that Mother Nature doesn’t exactly share our preferences.

In fact, she approaches landscape design with order pretty much out of mind!

And that’s point one to keep in mind when it comes to designing a live butterfly garden. You want to create a habitat that mirrors the natural environment. It needs to be conducive to their wild nature.

Focus on brightly colored plants. Keep the same colors pretty much adjacent to one another. Plant some host plants – plants for butterflies to lay eggs on, such as alfalfa– as well as nectar plants for them to feed on. Don’t separate the host and nectar plants. Make it easy for your butterflies to emerge from their cocoons and start eating.

Even as you keep the colors roughly ordered, don’t be afraid to mix them at the same time. In other words, you can have a couple of bright yellow patches, one at the top of the garden and one at the bottom, if that’s what you want.
Avoid pesticides and insecticides at all costs. They can be fatal for butterflies.

It’s fine to plan your butterfly garden and not just leave it to “chance”. In fact, there are ways in which you have to plan. Which flowers and shrubs you are going to plant, for example, shouldn’t be a last minute or hasty decision. But when it comes to garden design, don’t be afraid to let your inclination for order get a little blown by the wind. Let it get ruffled a bit. Mother Nature does – and your butterfly visitors will appreciate the effort.


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