Butterflies are fun to watch fluttering in the garden. To attract them, a butterfly garden should include a variety of plants, nectar for the adults, and plants that provide food for their offspring. You'll also need to provide water and shelter.

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Butterfly Gardens

A butterfly garden is a fun thing you can do in your yard to attract butterflies. And they’re pretty easy to create. We’ve tried to create food, water, and shelter. Those are the three most important things that butterfly need. We need food for both the butterflies themselves, and for their larvae – if we want them to stick around.

This is a very low maintenance garden. A lot of these plants are planted by seed in the fall. And, a lot of them reseed, heavily. So, we’ve allowed it have a wild look. You could have a much more cultivated butterfly garden, if you choose.

Purple coneflower is really popular. Cosmos is also popular. Black-eyed susan, asters, and milkweed are also popular. There are a couple of different kinds of milkweed that you can plant. We also have zinnias, petunias, and flocks. Joe Pye Weed is a native perennial that attracts butterflies, and also provides larval food. And milkweed is really important for the larval food.

This garden is a mix of annuals and perennials, which is a good choice to attract butterflies. Annuals tend to bloom over a longer period of time throughout the summer. So, you’re more likely to have blooms that will attract the butterflies all season long.

Perennials, on the other hand, attract both butterflies and the larvae. And, they’re more likely to produce a food source for the larvae.

Butterflies need water, but they don’t need the large amounts found in a birdbath or a sprinkler. What we’ve done is use some rocks that have shallow depressions. The dew will collect in the depressions in the morning. And that provides a shallow water source for the butterflies.

Butterfly gardens should be located in full sun, because the butterflies are dependent on the sunlight for heat for their body. Most of the annuals and perennials that bloom prolifically need full sun as well.

The other consideration is to think about an area that’s protected from the wind, because butterflies have a hard time flying in a very breezy location.

This feature story prepared with Jennifer Smith, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Douglas County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.

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