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Butterflies and Tips for a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies are probably everyone’s favorite garden creature. They are beautiful, mysterious, and romantic. It’s a goal of many gardeners to attract these lovely butterflies into the garden.

Butterflies need just 3 things: Water, a nectar source, and host plants on which to lay their eggs.

Water
All living creatures need water. The preferred source of water for butterflies is a mud puddle. This can be easily created by filling a large clay saucer with clean sand. Place this in a sunny spot in your butterfly garden and keep it moist at all times.

Butterfly on Buttonbush

Food Source - Nectar for Adult Butterflies
Nectar plants are the food source for adult butterflies. You’ll need Butterfly Bush of course, which is now available in many colors. Lantana can’t be beat for attracting butterflies. Clethra is a large-growing shrub that produces sweetly scented flower spikes up to 6 inches long in either pink or white and attracts butterflies by the hundreds. You'll enjoy the fragrance as well, which reminds me of fresh honey. Clethra, also known as Summersweet and Sweet Pepper Bush requires moist soil and full to partial sun. Joe Pye Weed comes in many forms. Helianthus is another late-blooming flower that butterflies love—it has large yellow sunflower-type blooms on tall stems. Of course all the beneficial insects, including butterflies, love Blackeyed Susan, Gaillardia (Blanketflower). In September, butterflies are attracted to Stonecrop (Sedums like Autumn Joy, Matrona, and Vera Jamison.) Dianthus flowers just about all summer, and butterflies are particularly attracted to this plant. You can fill in between bloom times of the perennials with annuals like cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias. 

Fennel is a Host Plant for Butterflies
Food Source for offspring (a place to lay eggs) - Host Plants 
Host plants are those on which butterflies lay their eggs. Yes, the larva will eat the plants, but without a place for the babies to grow into the beautiful adult butterfly, you can’t have the butterflies! So plant extra parsley, dill, fennel, and milkweed, so you can have plenty to share with the butterflies. An added bonus is that these plants also attract many other beneficial insects!
 
I did say that butterflies need just 3 things, however there is a 4th thing that is the most important of all: Never use pesticides in your garden. Using pesticides would kill the butterflies you are trying to attract. Use insecticidal soap instead.

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