Plan a butterfly garden

Spring is only a few weeks away when daffodils and crocus will be bursting through the snow and we'll be joyfully anticipating the first robin sighting of the year. In the meantime, it's not too early to plan outdoor springtime projects that will bring color and life to the yard. One way is to plan a butterfly garden. Not only does planning a butterfly garden provide a way to bring colorful beauty to the yard but helps the environment by providing butterflies and other garden loving birds and insects the nutrients they need. Jennifer Noonan writing for bobvila.com says, "Butterflies are mesmerizing creatures with more to offer than beauty alone. Because they are nectar eaters, they are great pollinators, and their larvae provide food for birds and other wildlife."

When planning a butterfly garden, one of the first things to consider may be where to place it on the property. The size of the garden depends on how much space is available and how much time and money are available for purchasing, sowing and tending to plants or seeds. The larger the garden, the more flowers are required to fill it and more time needed for weeding, deadheading and watering.

Regardless of size, the butterfly garden needs to offer butterflies a reason to visit and a place where they can thrive. Hgtv.com suggests, "Choose a site that has some sun but is also sheltered from wind. Include a few trees and shrubs for roosting at night and for cooling off on the hottest days." Butterflies as well as the flowers they are drawn to require a lot of sunshine. The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) suggests, "Try to locate your garden where it will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day."

Once the location is chosen the flowers that will fill the garden can be planned. Butterflies are attracted to nectar producing flowers, so with some luck planting these types of flowers will attract butterflies to your garden. Researching and shopping for nectar producing flowers that are compatible with the local area can be a lot of fun and provide a colorful distraction from long drab winter days.

A hardy flower that might successfully attract butterflies to your yard is the coneflower. Coneflowers resemble large daisies, are perennial and will bloom all summer. Marie Iannotti writing for thespruce.com says, "These flowers are rich in nectar and very popular with both bees and butterflies."

Tickseed is another flower with a daisy-like appearance that's attractive to butterflies. Charlyne Mattox writing forcountryliving.com says, "Butterflies love the nectar, and the plants can tolerate most soils. This plant is a must for any butterfly garden." Tickseed varieties are available as annuals or perennials. Iannotti writes, "Their daisy-like flowers range in colors from bright yellow and orange to pink and red."

Another flower, the hollyhock, attracts butterflies and is also useful to the butterfly's caterpillar stage. Mattox says, "These mid-summer bloomers are known to support the caterpillar life cycle of the painted-lady butterfly." Hollyhocks don't bloom all summer but will return the following year.

If making decisions about which flowers to plant is too overwhelming, butterfly garden kits that contain a variety of nectar producing flower seeds can be purchased instead.

In addition to a sunny protected location and plenty of nectar producing flowers butterflies also need a small source of moisture generally found in mud puddles. Kate Richards writing for Better Homes & Gardens (bhg.com) explains, "Butterflies (especially males) typically obtain extra moisture and essential minerals through a behavior known as puddling—this happens in particular during periods of drought and high heat." When placed in a butterfly garden, these manmade moist areas are referred to as puddling stations or puddling stones. Puddling stones can either be purchased online or at local garden centers or can be made at home. NABA suggests, "Puddling stations can be as simple as a damp area of ground covered with sand."

Once a location is determined, flowers are chosen and a means of providing the visiting butterflies with water is found it's just a matter of weeks before the garden can become a reality.

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