Backyard Science: Butterflies Everywhere

Butterfly GardenSo many of the very best things are accidents. I accidentally fell into the world of butterfly gardening because it turns out that a lot of deer resistant, perennial wildflowers are also butterfly plants. We’ve started small, but don’t be surprised if spring sees lots of Joe-Pye weed and Milkweed seedlings popping up around here.

Here’s an article about the critical importance of planting host plants for butterflies, particularly as climate change affects our back yard habitats.

Even if you are a balcony gardener, you can create a small butterfly habitat to encourage your budding lepidopterist. Even kids who hate bugs love butterflies, and if you have a garden, adding butterfly-friendly elements is a good way to bring more pollinators. One quick, easy step is to plant a butterfly bush. [EDIT: I have found out since this post was written that butterfly bush is actually not all that good for butterflies. Please read this article, which advocates AGAINST planting butterfly bush. Fortunately, there are lots of other nice choices. We have removed the butterfly bush and replaced it with purple coneflower.] These hardy, perennial shrubs are easy to grow. My little gardener loved helping me dig the hole and carry bricks to surround our new bush as protection from the Evil Lawn Mower. I put the bush in the hole and was breaking up the clumps of dirt to fill around it, when my little assistant showed up with a shovel full of leaf humus to feed “his” bush. The bush cost about $10, but the inspiration to his imagination and the sense of ownership he has in our garden now is absolutely priceless. (Big bonus for us: Deer don’t really care for them, so when the neighborhood herd wanders through on their way to snack on the neighbor’s roses, they will likely not bite it off at the ground.) Our specimen arrived with a flower head already in bud, so we are hopeful that we’ll have blooms this summer!

Monarch caterpillar courtesy of Bistrosavage on Flickr Creative Commons
Monarch Caterpillar

If you have the space, also plant some Milkweed. Monarch butterflies can ONLY eat milkweed, and the scarcity of milkweed is actually endangering the Monarch population. Good news: Milkweed is a very pretty flowering plant! And it’s very easy to grow, particularly if you can just direct-seed it in the fall. You can get one variety almost anyplace that sells seeds marketed as “Butterfly Weed.”

UPDATE: We have now planted milkweed, added more black eyed susans and purple coneflower, and installed a butterfly puddle. The kids had a great time building the butterfly puddle, and I’m looking forward to having them observe it this year.butterfly puddle playdate

See my In The Garden Pinterest board for some more ideas:
Follow Meghan’s board In the garden on Pinterest.

About Meghan G

I like blues, punk, and crime drama. I love having boys, keeping active, and the outdoors. I'm a cat person, but I think dogs should have equal opportunities.

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