Basic components and plants for a butterfly garden
With many natural butterfly habitats lost to human activities like building homes, roads and farms, creating a butterfly garden is an easy way to see more butterflies and help them do their thing.
The ideal butterfly garden is one that supports both the larvae (caterpillars) and the butterflies. A successful butterfly garden provides the right mix of flowers, shelter, water and sun. Using a wide variety of plants is important.
Plants for a butterfly garden should include “host plants and “food source plants.” Host plants are plant species on which butterflies like to lay their eggs. These include Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Milkweed, Clover and Paw Paw. When planning the design of your butterfly habitat, try to work these host plants in among the food source plants.
I like to spread them throughout the garden space somewhat randomly. In the case of Dill and Fennel, they also can add a beautiful texture to the garden.
The food source plants are the fun, colorful flowering plants we envision when we think of butterfly gardens. Gardeners in Nashville and Middle Tennessee have many options among great perennial plants that attract both larvae and adult butterflies.
A few to consider:
Echinacea purpurea ‘Tiki Torch’ Coneflower
Large, bright pumpkin orange flowers atop well-branched stems make this vigorous grower a superb addition to perennial borders and cottage gardens. Flowers are good for arrangements. Herbaceous perennial. Forms an upright clump 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ Purple Coneflower
A well-behaved plant with bold six-inch wide, magenta-rose flowers; petals are horizontal, not pendulous. Attracts butterflies; perfect for the informal, nature-inspired garden. Excellent cut flower. Perennial. Fast grower to 3 feet tall, forming clumps.
Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’
Among the best border perennials available, this is one of our native North American wildflowers. Plants make a bushy, upright clump with a profuse display of brown-eyed, golden-orange daisies from midsummer through the fall. Seedheads have good winter interest. A terrific choice for mass planting, combining especially well with ornamental grasses. Increase blooming time by removing faded flowers regularly. Grows to 24 inches tall and wide.
Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy’ Stonecrop
Attractive, clumping perennial displays large, plate-like flower clusters that start pink then turn to a rosy russet. Succulent, solid-looking leaves give it a substantial presence in the garden. A fine addition to the rock garden or mixed border, where its flower heads will remain attractive into autumn. Deciduous. Moderate grower 18-to-24 inches tall and wide.
Lo & Behold Buddleia Purple Haze Butterfly Bush
This easy-care, dwarf shrub has a unique, horizontal, low spreading habit with feather-like deep green leaves and showy spikes of dark purple-blue flowers that radiate outward and downward. It is perfect for massing in borders and among the must-have plants for a butterfly garden Purple Haze blooms continuously from summer to fall but wiill not produce unwanted seedlings. Reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 3 1/2 feet wide.
Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’ Catmint
Showy periwinkle blue flower spikes adorn the fragrant mounds of gray-green foliage. Excellent for cascading off walls or container edges and as groundcover that is somewhat drought resistant with time. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Herbaceous. Reaches 24 to 30 inches tall, spreading to 36 inches wide.