Start off with the right plants, a sunny, secluded location and getting your hands dirty, and you should end up with a gorgeous spring science lesson.
Butterflies are cold-blooded and need warm sun to keep them moving, so for the sake of your flowers, which also like to bloom in the sun, and the health of your pretty, winged guests, plant in bright sun. Also provide the butterflies with a flat rock or two that will absorb heat and be a nice spot for them to sit and sunbathe in your butterfly garden.
Dogs like to chase butterflies, so make sure your garden is in a place where Fido can’t get to, otherwise he’ll chase them all away.
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Did you know that butterflies have favorite colors? They do—pink, purple, yellow and orange. Don’t ask me how they picked those colors, but apparently, those are the color flowers they like to drink from. Flat flowers and short, tubular flowers (like lupine and the aptly named butterfly bush) are best for casual nectar-sipping. Droopy flowers don’t provide a suitable sitting place, but many of these flowers are better for hummingbirds, who may also stop by to visit your garden. A wide variety of flowers will attract a wider variety of butterfly species, so check out which flowers are the favorite of your local species.
After flying around, drinking some delicious nectar and generally being beautiful, a butterfly gets thirsty, so make sure you’ve got a shallow spot of water or some puddles for them to gather in and get their drink on—a butterfly happy hour!
Involve kids in the process—talk about the name of each flower (and you can both attempt the scientific Latin) and its needs. Does the plant like full sun or a bit of shade? Is it a perennial or an annual—in other words, will you see it again next year, or will it become part of the compost pile at the end of the season? Allow kids to plant their butterfly garden how they wish, arranging the plants in a way they want, while making sure all the roots are under the soil and properly patted down. Remember, the idea is that the butterflies think it’s pretty, not the neighbors. After all, butterflies have exquisite taste—just look at their clothes!
Lovely Monarch Butterfly photo, entitled “Butterfly And Pink Flower” by Christian Meyn