One of the most uplifting sights in a garden is a butterfly delicately resting on a flower. A sign of renewal and rebirth, these beautiful insects are also beneficial to the garden by helping pollinate flowering plants.
Threats to Butterflies
Original butterflies were able to find habitats in the wilds and undeveloped areas. With the increasing development of land and a rise in the use of insecticides, a deliberate and concerted effort to create and preserve an ecosystem conducive to butterflies needs to be made.
How to Plant a Butterfly Garden
There are three main elements that are needed to create a butterfly garden: host plants, nectar plants, and water.
Butterfly Water Source
While a butterfly can make do with a mud puddle in a pinch, if you are planning on growing butterflies it is a good idea to have a fresh and clean water source for them to drink from. This may be a bird bath, an elevated dish, or even a specific butterfly feeder. Stop by the Kingwood Garden Center for different options for your yard.
Butterfly Host Plants
Host plants are those that butterflies lay their eggs on. Different species of butterflies are attracted to specific host plants. For example, one very common plant found in Houston area gardens is the milkweed on which the monarch butterflies lay their eggs.
Both the Eastern Black Swallowtail and the Giant Swallowtail love the Rue plant; however, the Eastern Black Swallowtail will lay its eggs on dill, parsley and fennel while the Giant Swallowtail prefers citrus and hop ash.
If you would like to attract specific types of butterflies, research the host plants they favor and cultivate those plants in your garden.
Nectar Plants for Butterflies
The second element needed in a successful butterfly garden are nectar plants, which are what the adult butterflies feed on. Some of the best nectar plants that grow well in the Texas heat are:
- Butterfly bush
Creating a Butterfly Nursery
Once you have the nectar plants to attract and feed the adult butterflies and the host plants to entice them to lay their eggs, you will very likely begin to see eggs on your host plants.
The butterfly life cycles begins with the egg. These vary in shape and size depending on the species of butterfly. If you are attracting a specific type of butterfly with a host plant, it is a good idea to research what their eggs look like them so that you don’t inadvertently destroy them or prune the leaves that they are on.
When the egg hatches, the caterpillar (larva) will make its home on the leaf the egg was laid, eating it for sustenance. The caterpillar will molt several times while it grows. This is one of the most precarious times in the life of a butterfly. In average conditions, only five caterpillars survive to the chrysalis stage out of 500 eggs.
Once the caterpillar has reached its full size, it will form a chrysalis (pupa.) While in their cocoon, the caterpillar will transform into an adult butterfly.
Butterfly Garden Supplies
If you have more questions on creating a butterfly garden, stop by the Kingwood Garden Center. In addition to host and nectar plants and feeders, we actively grow butterflies and usually have caterpillars and/or chrysalis’s on hand if you’d like to jump start your butterfly garden.