Planting for Butterflies

Working in a nursery certainly has its advantages. When the butterflies are out in force, it is a show-stopping display!

Most of you know that butterflies have less specific “nectar” plants for the adult butterflies and more specific “food” plants for the caterpillars. It is interesting that the adults will often scope out where to lay their eggs while they are feeding on nectar. For this reason, it is helpful to have some of the “food” plants nearby when planting your nectar garden.

An example of a “food” plant for a Gulf Fritillary butterfly would be a Passion Flower vine. Although the Gulf Fritillary butterfly will visit other flowers for nectar, the caterpillars strictly feed on the Passion Flower vine. The Monarchs will use Milkweed as both a “nectar” plant for the adult and a “food” plant for its caterpillars, but the adult will visit other flowers as well. The Monarch caterpillars will only feed on Milkweed, and may die from starvation if there are none to eat!

Walking through the nursery, it is easy to spot the flowers that the butterflies like the best. My personal favorite is the Gregg’s Blue Mistflower. It is covered with blue Ageratum-like flowers and is an absolute butterfly magnet! The butterflies flutter around in a cloud above them.

Tropical Milkweed, aka Butterfly Weed, and Buddleia, aka Butterfly Bush, are named for the butterfly, so we know they will attract them! You can also count on:

Verbena          Fall Aster            White Mistflower             Purple Coneflower         

Turk’s Cap       Duranta                Blackfoot Daisy              Orange Zest Cestrum

Salvia                Skullcap                   Damianita                          Flame Acanthus

Tx. Sage           Gayfeather           Flowering Senna                    Rock Rose

Penta                  Zinnia                       Lantana                             Passion Flower

Bee Balm        Honeysuckle          Crossvine                            Almond Verbena

For those of you wishing to provide the “food” plant for the caterpillars as well, plant some Dill, Fennel or Parsley to attract Black Swallowtail butterflies. Some more “food” plants for caterpillars are:

Flame Acanthus               ->  Crimson Patch Butterfly

Fall Aster                            ->   Pearl Crescent Butterfly

Anacacho Orchid Tree   ->  Long-tailed Skipper

Fragrant Mistflower       ->  Bordered Patch Butterfly

Now you have some ideas for plants to put in your butterfly garden. The butterflies are putting on a show here at the nursery. Come enjoy the show and bring home plants to bring in the butterflies!

 

 

 

 

By | 2017-08-09T11:56:04+00:00 August 9th, 2017|Insects|

About the Author:

Mary Kay is an asset to Backbone and a wealth of knowledge! Many customers come in and ask for her by name for all their plant questions. It’s no wonder why, as Mary Kay has 43 years of experience in the horticulture field. She holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Ohio State University, and a TMCNP and a TCLP from Texas Association of Nurserymen, and a Specialist in Urban Trees Certification from Texas A&M.