Felicia English with Rusty E. Allen, NHG Education and Outreach Coordinator This month, I joined…
Summer is the time for butterflies! If you’ve planted a variety of blooming plants in your garden, then you’ve probably noticed increased butterfly activity lately. As temperatures warm and the nectar flow increases, butterflies will be busy feeding and laying eggs around the garden. Not seeing many butterflies? That probably means you need to add more butterfly plants to your garden to create an ideal butterfly habitat.
Butterflies need good nectar sources from which to feed, but they also need the right host plants where they can deposit their eggs. All good butterfly habitats offer both nectar plants and host plants.
Not all flowers are equal when it comes to nectar flow. One of the best sources for nectar to feed a variety of butterflies is lantana.
Lantana flowers accommodate both large and small butterflies and its length bloom period provides a reliable food source.
Pentas are a heavy-blooming annual that provide nectar for a variety of butterflies throughout the growing season. The bright blooms of Turk’s cap are attractive to sulphur, salllowtail and gulf fritillary butterflies. While most butterfly plants need a sunny location, Turk’s cap can be grown in the shade.
Many butterfly larvae have very specific needs when it comes to their host plants. Adult female butterflies will seek out these special plants on which to lay their eggs. Once hatched, the larvae will feed on the host plant before they cocoon. If you want to encourage a larger butterfly population in your garden, be sure to select the right host plants!
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a favorite nectar and host plant. The clusters of bright orange blooms make this perennial a showstopper in the garden and the butterflies can’t resist! The tropical species of butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica also called tropical milkweed), which grows taller than the perennial form, is also an excellent nectar and host plant. Asclepias are the preferred species for both nectar and host plants of Monarch butterflies.
Passion vine is not only a beautiful and tough ornamental vine in North Texas, it’s also a favorite host plant of many species of butterflies. Know that once butterfly larvae have hatched, they will eat a good amount of foliage from your host plants. While some of the damage can be unsightly, most of these plants are tough and will bounce back after the larvae finish feeding and cocoon.
Did you know that many culinary herbs make excellent butterfly plants? Rue, Mexican mint marigold, lavender and chives are all good choices for attracting butterflies to your garden.
Be aware that most butterfly species need different plants as nectar sources than for host plants. There are many different annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees to attract pollinators to your garden.
You can refer to our handy butterfly plant list to help you choose good nectar and host plants for your garden.