How to Create a Butterfly Garden
April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring butterflies! Georgia is home to Tiger Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails, Cloudless Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, and of course Monarch butterflies. Butterfly gardens are a popular hobby in the warmer months, and with the weather about to change, now is finally the right time for butterfly enthusiasts to get started. Here are some tips to keep the butterflies frequenting your gardens and pollinating your flowers.
Provide Plants That Caterpillars Eat
It is very important to have plants in your garden that the butterflies will lay their eggs on! Because caterpillars can’t travel very far for food, butterflies will look to lay their eggs on plants that their offspring can consume. March and April are prime months for caterpillars to eat before hibernating, so in the spring it is important to have these food sources in your garden. Georgia’s caterpillars typically eat the leaves off of dill, parsley, carrot, fennel, ornamental cassia, canary bird bush, sycamore and willow trees, milkweed, thistle, hollyhock, and sunflower.
Provide Plants with Nectar for Butterflies
The plants that butterflies eat as adults are very different from what they eat as caterpillars. Providing these nectar-rich flowers and plants will ensure that butterflies have something to eat and will stay near your garden. Georgia’s butterflies typically eat the nectar from blue cardinal flowers, blood flowers, Brazilian verbena, butterfly bushes, butterfly weeds, garlic chives, common milkweed, daisy fleabane, dame’s rocket, dogbane, marigolds, mistflowers, Asiatic lilies, purple coneflowers, and New England asters.
Create a Space to Raise and House Your Very Own Butterflies
This can be an activity the whole family can enjoy and is easier than you may think! First, purchase a butterfly habitat or butterfly cage to keep the caterpillars in. Then you can either capture a few butterflies from your yard or purchase a butterfly kit online that includes caterpillars. If you aren’t using the kit, be sure to provide water and leaves from some of the plants listed above. You should keep the caterpillars safe in the netted cage until they are done hibernating. Once they are inside of their cocoons, try not to move the habitat, as you don’t want the cocoons to fall! Once the butterflies hatch and begin flying around, open the cage outside and allow them to use your garden for food.
If some of these plants and flowers are included in your garden, you can expect to see butterflies from early May to late July. You may also see some bees and hummingbirds that are attracted to your nectar-rich plants. Drawing pollinators to your yard is important in a world where they’re in decline. Enjoy tending to your butterfly garden, knowing you’re helping the ecosystem at the same time!