• Butterflies may look like they’re flying about randomly, but they are actually on a mission to find their next meal. Adult butterflies live on flower nectar and they need to eat constantly. Make sure there’s always food available by growing as many different types of plants as you can. That way you’ll have flowers blooming from spring through fall.
• Butterflies like to dine in the sun, so they are attracted to sun-loving flowers. They prefer flowers with a flat top (such as zinnias or coneflowers) and ones that grow in clusters (such as lilacs or phlox). Here are some of their favorites:
• Butterflies are nearsighted, so it is easier for them to see a lilac bush or a big group of garden phlox than it is to zero in on a single plant. They can also smell much better than they can see, and fragrance is a powerful attractant.
• Butterflies need water and nutrients as well as nectar. A shallow saucer of water placed on the ground makes a perfect place for them to grab a drink. The dissolved minerals in mud puddles are also an attraction. To make an artificial puddle, put some coarse sand on a plate or pie pan and keep the surface moist. Place the puddle in a sunny, sheltered area that can be seen from a distance.
• All that flitting around can be exhausting. A stack of flat stones in a sunny, protected spot will give weary fliers a warm place to rest.
• Butterflies start life as caterpillars, so it’s important to make them feel welcome, too. Plants we consider weeds are often important food sources for butterfly larvae. Designating an out-of-the-way area for weeds is an easy way to create caterpillar habitat. Some other host plants for larvae include violets, hollyhock, parsley, dill, milkweed, vetch and thistle.
Creating a butterfly-friendly garden is a fun project and an important way to help support the survival of these beautiful winged creatures.