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Food Sunday: Plant Now For a Butterfly Garden

Home butterfly garden

(Picture courtesy of woodleywonderworks at

The world isn’t altogether friendly to many butterfly species, so if you’re putting in some crops for yourself, this would be a good time to consider putting in something to keep these beautiful creatures afloat.

Recently, visiting the Smithsonian I took a few moments to wander through the butterfly garden there.   While it was too early for much of a population, during warm seasons, the plants attract many butterflies and the signs there give visitors ideas for their own.

One sign struck me as good to know, advising that we shouldn’t be cleaning all the old materials out in the fall, because eggs may be in them waiting for spring to hatch out.   Here, spudtruckowner tells me it’s been a family practice that he still follows to take out the old dead stems and put them in the back of the barn.   Burning them just isn’t done, as there will be hatchlings waiting for warm months.

Of course, using insecticides is obviously the reverse of what we need for these delicate insects.   Planting varieties that are well adapted to your area would make it easier to avoid their use.   There are a lot of hardy plants too, and I was delighted to notice that my new sprouts of Kohlrabi will be a butterfly attractant as well as providing good veggies for the table.  Plants and butterflies vary by area.  For the monarch, milkweed is a must, for black swallowtail, carrots and fennel; and be prepared to see big holes munched in the leaves they like best.

Creating a butterfly garden should start with some serious research to learn which kinds of butterflies are native to your area. You can learn that from our article “Butterfly Gardening by Area”. Make a list of all of the different kinds of butterflies you would like to attract, and then learn which flowers and plants they both feed on and lay eggs on. All of the plants will certainly be native to your area and therefore easy to grow with the right conditions and care. Adult butterflies will visit for a longer period if they find plants to lay their eggs on. These are called ‘Host Plants’ and you can read about them in our article on “Butterfly Host Plants.”

Plants that are local to your area may be ordered in advance, but as now is planting season, you can check with nearby greenhouses and growers for the ones you want.

There are a few varieties called ‘butterfly bush’ and all have a wonderful aroma, but are not adapted to your everyday garden as they are not particularly dainty.    Any bright color will attract most species, and they are among the few species of insect that ‘see’ red.

Here’s hoping you can set aside a little space to help this wonderful species to survive and brighten our lives.

Smithsonian butterfly garden sign/butterfly and hummingbird attractant

Taken in Dallas State Fair Butterfly House

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.