06 May 2018

Butterfly Gardening

Some of the most beautiful and watchable life in our gardens include butterflies, moths and skippers. To attract them to your garden, provide flowers with nectar for the adults, plants for caterpillars to eat, muddy places for the males and a pesticide-free environment.

Our butterfly habitat 


Generally, butterflies are more likely to gather in  mass plantings. A bed full of zinnias or petunias will attract dozens, if not hundreds of skippers and butterflies while they are in bloom.

White flowers attract night feeders such as moths. Red, orange, pink, purple and yellow flowers attract butterflies.

Some nectar plants:
Spring: Carrots, violets, native cherry, vetch, clover, lilac, lunaria, catnip, coreopsis, blackberry, sweet pea, sweet William, daffodil, Dame’s rocket, and hyacinth

Summer: Dill, Queen Anne's Lace, pentas, goldenrod, lemon balm, milkweed, butterfly-weed, coneflower, petunia, mint, marjoram, bergamot-Monarda, sage, marigold, black-eyed Susan, mallow, passionflower, pipe vine, yarrow, honeysuckle, privet, cosmos, heliotrope, lantana, tithonia-Mexican sunflower, verbena, leek, chives, daisy, daylily, bachelor buttons, fleabane, feverfew, blazing star, lily, sunflower, veronica, hyssop, borage.

Fall: Aster, basil, moonflower, fennel, thistle, obedient plant, sedum, sneezeweed, Joe Pye weed, yarrow, ironweed, globe amaranth, zinnia.
Monarch caterpillar in our garden

Eggs are laid only on the plants that each caterpillar can eat when they hatch. If you want to help the butterflies raise their young, you have to let them eat the leaves of your plants.

The plants they eat, called host plants, have leaves that look chewed while the caterpillars are growing. You can watch the caterpillars daily as they change their appearance, shed their outer skin and form chrysalis.

Caterpillar food: Dill, aster, spicebush, fennel, parsley, passion vine, flowering tobacco, cabbage, milkweed, mallow, sneezeweed, alfalfa, nettle, hops, partridge pea, sorrel, cress, pipe vine, leadplant, clover, vetch, thistle, violet and rue.

To learn about the 135 native Oklahoma butterflies, moths and skippers go to  Butterflies and Moths of North America - http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org.

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