Like many activities, there are different levels to building a live butterfly garden. Or maybe it’s better to say, you can take different approaches to building one. You can get extremely intense and serious about it – literally creating habitats that butterflies can’t get away from – or you can keep it simple.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Butterfly gardeners whose gardens are devoted to nothing but butterflies often miss the forest for the trees. They can get too obsessed with tracking the number of species who visited, how many sightings, what plants were successful, which ones were not.
The joy of butterflies – and the joy of gardening – goes right over their head. Don’t let that happen to you!
If you have never designed a butterfly garden, then the best advice anyone can give you is to start small. Don’t plot out a few hundred square feet targeting a dozen different species of butterfly. Take a look at the list of plants butterflies enjoy and pick one or two.
My recommendation these days is to plant – at most – a couple of butterfly bushes. These plants are ideal for attracting large numbers of butterflies with minimum of effort. They aren’t guarantees, of course, but you might be surprised. Choose a corner of your yard or garden, fertilize it well, and see what happens.
Butterfly bushes tend to flower prolifically, meaning that when it comes to the color butterflies so love – what literally draws them – you hit the jackpot. And they come in virtually any color you can imagine, so you can choose your favorite blossoms.
They are also low maintenance plants, which is a real bonus when you’re starting out. Some compost, natural fertilizers, plenty of water at the outset and they’ll just live forever. In fact, your biggest problem is how hearty they are! After a year, you will have lots of little volunteers springing up around them. I replant some of these – or give them to friends who want to try butterfly gardening.
The point is always to remember why you’re doing it. Yes, tracking butterflies can be a lot of fun. And if you really fall in love, then providing healthy habitats for butterflies – who have fewer and fewer places to go in the world – is something of a calling. Nothing wrong with that.
But the best thing about butterflies are those lazy afternoons when you pull up a lawn chair, pour a glass of iced tea (or whatever your favorite summer beverage happens to be) and just watch your winged visitors fluttering here and there.
Call me simple, but that’s what I call a good day in the backyard!