Butterfly gardens are easy to plant and maintain, and they help to support pollinator populations (like butterflies, bees, and flies) in your local area. You can design your butterfly garden to surround your home or lawn, thus removing grass that you’d have to mow – it’s a win-win! Even if you don’t have much space, many butterfly nectar and larval plants can be grown in containers – there’s nothing holding you back!
Here’s a photo of one of our butterfly gardens – still plenty of room for a pick-up soccer game.
When you plant a butterfly garden, remember that you’ll need to plant two different types of plants: 1) nectar plants that supply adult pollinators with nectar for energy, and 2) larval plants which pollinators eat when they’re larvae (many pollinators have specific larval plants and can only eat these particular plants when they are in the caterpillar stage – think monarchs and milkweed). Here are a few examples of nectar and larval plants that grow well in the mid-Atlantic region:
Bee balm (red blooms), Joe-pye weed, lavender, and butterfly bush (but think twice on the butterfly bush, unless you’re good about dead-heading the flowers) are nectar plants that return each year – cost effective and easy to maintain!
Really, Joe-pye weed can be a busy gardener’s best friend!
Coreopsis (yellow flower) and sedum are terrific nectar plants which bloom from early summer to late fall:
Liatris (shown here before blooming into gorgeous purple spikes – see photo below for liatris in full bloom) is both a larval and nectar plant:
Planting goldenrod and yarrow provides pollinators with nectar from spring through fall, AND you almost never have to water these two plants:
Bronze fennel is a great larval plant for the black swallowtail, but it spreads, so consider dill instead.
Hops is a great larval plant for anglewing butterflies like commas and question marks – and if you’re really creative, I guess you could brew your own beer too!
Don’t forget to plant milkweed to help the monarchs as they make their North American journey!
Butterfly gardening is great for the environment, beautiful around your home, and saves time and money you could spend elsewhere on your home. If you’d like to learn more, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s information page.