South Florida is among the best places to plant a butterfly garden and enjoy success. A successful butterfly garden will provide a complete habitat for these creatures. It won’t just appeal to the adults. So, a true butterfly garden will look like an eclectic garden of wildflowers more than a tidy landscaped design. Thankfully, the largest generation of homebuyers – Millennials – understand the value of a butterfly garden. First and foremost, you can’t use insecticides and have a butterfly garden. So, you’ll end up with other bugs too. Keep this in mind when you choose the location for your butterfly garden.
Butterflies have unique host plants, so planting only milkweed will attract monarchs, but planting other flowers will bring in other species too. For example, black swallowtails will be attracted to your fennel and dill. These are beautiful herbs to plant and harvest at the end of the season, so everyone wins! Gulf fritillary like passion vine, which is perfect for our warm region. Do you like cassia flowers? So do the cloudless sulfur butterflies!
For the best habitat, you will need places for butterflies to rest in the sun, shelter from the winds, hide from the birds, drink water and eat. Many people put birdbaths in their butterfly gardens, thinking it’s a water source. Really, it just brings their predators (birds) to their homes. Butterflies enjoy your random decorative flat stones. They use high spots to warm up and rest and low spots hold puddles, which they drink from. The males will absorb salts by drinking from these puddles and enjoy improved fertility! Of you find a small dish to set near the ground, that can make a great water source too, and just toss in some rocks or twigs to make it easier for the butterflies to access the water. You don’t need much water though. Actually, you can add sand to the dish and when you fill it with water, only go to the same level as the sand. Remember, these beauties are tiny, they don’t need large amounts of water!
Here are some more tips for creating a science-based butterfly habitat:
- Don’t use weed killers that can affect the butterflies negatively, instead, load up the floor of the butterfly garden with mulch. They enjoy basking on the pieces of mulch too!
- Plant in an area that is protected from winds.
- Plant more host plants than you think you will need so the larva doesn’t run out of food and your garden stays beautiful!
- Use plants in groups. For example, plant your nectar plants in drifts or masses to attract the most types of butterflies to one area for your viewing pleasure!
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