Butterflies bring beauty and wonder wherever they are seen, but what many people do not know is how important they are to have you in your garden.
Butterflies, like other insects, play an essential role in our ecosystem. As a gardener, that means more food for you and your family. Butterflies are one of the most important pollinators. They help to fertilize plants by transferring pollen from one flower to another. By feeding on nectar, butterflies inadvertently pick up and transfer pollen, which helps to fertilize plants and ensure their continued growth and reproduction.
Butterflies are an important part of the food chain, and they provide a food source for other insects, birds, and even small mammals. When we support the butterfly population, we are also helping to support the entire ecosystem.
By providing a source of food for butterflies, flowering plants also provide a habitat for these insects. Many species of butterflies lay their eggs on specific types of plants, and their caterpillars feed exclusively on these plants. By planting a variety of flowering plants, we can help to create a diverse habitat that supports a wide range of butterfly species.
Many plants are known to attract butterflies, but most importantly are plants that attract, feed and or offer habitat. These plants typically have brightly colored flowers that produce nectar.
Milkweed (Asclepias): This plant is essential for the survival of monarch butterflies, as it is the only plant on which their larvae can feed. It produces beautiful clusters of flowers that are highly attractive to many other species of butterflies as well. It is recommended to know what your native milkweed is and only plant those varieties.
Coneflowers (Echinacea): These plants produce large, showy flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white that are highly attractive to many species of butterflies.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia): These plants produce bright yellow flowers with dark centers that are highly attractive to many species of butterflies.
Zinnia: These plants produce large, brightly colored flowers that are highly attractive to many species of butterflies, including the Monarch butterfly!
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) - A wonderful and diverse culinary herb it is also an excellent plant that provides nectar for adult butterflies. Dill is also a food source for caterpillars and is a host plant for the caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes), which is a common butterfly species in North America.
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) - Also a commonly used culinary herb, parsley is a food source, provides nectar and shelter for the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly.
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a herb that is known to attract butterflies to the garden. Also a host plant for the caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly, fennel provides nectar, forage and shelter for Black Swallowtail butterfly.
- Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) - The blooms of this beautiful flower are a rich source of nectar for adult butterflies. This provides an important food source for adult butterflies. The flowers are particularly attractive to several butterfly species, including monarchs, swallowtails, and painted ladies. They also provide long lasting blooms, which is helpful for migrating butterflies to feed on late into the season.
There are many ways to attract butterflies into your garden and providing a garden filled with nectar rich flowers is the optimal way. These are just a few examples of the many plants that attract butterflies. When choosing plants to attract butterflies to your garden, it's best to choose a variety of plants that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a continuous food source. In addition plants that also provide additional benefits such as shelter and habitat would be optimal!
Make sure that all the seeds and plants you purchase are neonicotinoid-free. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that have been linked to negative impacts on pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies. These chemicals are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant and can be present in the pollen and nectar that bees and butterflies collect for food. They are considered one of the main causes for the collapse in bee populations worldwide. Plants and seeds from big box retailers commonly have neonicotinoids.
By choosing plants that attract butterflies, we can create gardens that are vibrant, aesthetically pleasing and also support the health and vitality of our local ecosystem.