Ah, those sunny summer days are at hand. The kids are out of school and we’re looking for ways to keep them entertained over the next couple of months. Why not round the kids up to plant a butterfly garden this summer? What a great way to get in some fun science lessons over the break and help our winged friends find homes in the midst of our urban sprawl.
Texas is home to a variety of different butterfly species including the giant swallow tail and the well-known Monarch, which is declining in numbers. Fortunately for us, our climate allows us to enjoy more butterfly species than any other state. Butterflies add movement to the landscape and an additional layer of interest for the eye.
Few things bring more joy to the kids in my garden education classes than looking for butterflies, caterpillars, and chrysalises. Building a butterfly habitat is an easy task that even younger kids can accomplish with a little adult help. Here are a few steps to get your project started.
- In an established garden, look for gaps in your landscape that could benefit from a new plant. Then choose plants from the list below that are appropriate for the space. Remember to determine how large a potential new plant may get so that it doesn’t overshadow what’s growing already. This is a great spontaneous math lesson for kids.
- If you are starting with a blank landscape, pick a spot that gets plenty of sunshine as most butterfly plants love full sun.
- Plant a diverse selection of plants to encourage a variety of species to your garden. This diversity will also provide habitat for all stages of life. Females lay eggs on host plants designed for the baby larvae or caterpillars to eat. For instance, the host plant for the Monarch butterfly is milkweed. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will strip the leaves off this plant for energy to become adult butterflies. Other plants such as lantana will provide nectar for adult butterflies to drink. Plant some of both types to sustain the complete life cycle.
- Plant in groups. Large masses of color tell our winged friends, “There’s food here!” Butterflies are attracted to red, orange, yellow and purple.
- Here’s something we seldom think about with butterflies, a water source. Provide mud puddles for them to drink. The soil and sand in the water give needed minerals and nutrients.
- Put flat stones in sunny areas that go relatively undisturbed. This provides places for butterflies to warm themselves.
- Avoid pesticides in your landscape. Pesticides don’t discriminate. If they kill one insect, they’ll kill most others, including butterflies.
- Now for the best part, plants! Here are some plants that will make your garden the preferred stop on the butterfly circuit. Adult butterflies are attracted to most types of nectar plants, but while in caterpillar stage they are very particular. Note the host plants include the types of butterfly caterpillars that feed on them.
Passion flower vines- Gulf fritillary Dill and parsley- Black swallowtail Citrus trees- Giant swallowtail Tropical milkweed- Monarch Dutchman’s pipe vine- Pipevine swallow tail Shrimp plant- Texan crescent spot Ruellia- Buckeye, Cuban crescent spot
|Snap dragon||Cigar plant|
|Zinnia||Mexican flame vine|
With just these few simple steps, your yard can become a “must see” on the list of traveling butterflies in the know. Grab a chair and watch these beautiful creatures flit about spreading joy with their vibrant colors. Make sure to gently examine host plants to search for chrysalises too. Maybe you will be rewarded to actually see a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, dry its wings, and begin its adult life before your very eyes!
On the Grow is a garden coaching service launched by Janice Brown to teach people how to be successful gardeners in the sometimes difficult, Gulf Coast climate. On the Grow provides garden education for the home gardener, children in outdoor classrooms, neighbors in community gardens, and employees in workplace gardens. Whether you want a new idea for a girls’ night out, a new way to engage children in nature, or want to implement a fresh wellness program in your company, On the Grow is here for you. Your coach will take you step by step teaching you the basics, while presenting you with a fresh perspective by helping you experience the healing benefits of gardening. Our mission at On the Grow is to help everyone experience the joy of a garden and build a greater connection to Mother Earth. Connect with One The Grow on Facebook and Twitter!