All it takes is a little strategy to excite your child with visits from butterflies in your very own butterfly garden.
“Understanding butterflies makes it clear why you plant the things you’re going to plant,” says Kathy Johnson, the children’s garden manager at Morton Arboretum, a nonprofit dedicated to tree appreciation, planting and conservation. A successful garden satisfies the needs of each stage of the butterfly’s life cycle. In short, you need food for the caterpillar as well as nectar for the butterfly.
A good source to take care of both stages is a plant of the Asclepias genus, commonly called the butterfly weed. The butterfly weed, butterfly bush (Buddleia) and purple cone flower (Echinacea) are the main attractors you need for your garden. “You put those in your yard, you will have butterflies,” Johnson says.
Because butterflies focus on red, orange, yellow and purple, flowers of these colors, such as zinnias, daisies and asters, also help attract the colorful creatures. Johnson suggests putting flat stones in your garden because butterflies are too weak to hover while they eat. Put out a pan of water if there’s no open water source near your home, and be sure to avoid pesticides.
“You can start with a small space and just the right plants and things will come and visit you,” Johnson says. A 3-square-foot area suffices, but a bigger garden makes it easier to beckon those beautiful butterflies.