Butterflies bring joy to the garden – and you can make much needed habitat for them! Plants that butterflies love have flowers with lots of nectar, as that is food for butterflies. Not all flowers make good nectar sources; these ones below are especially rich in it. We carry these varieties and more at our farmstands over the month of May and into June. Many of these flowers are frost sensitive, so we will be stocking them in mid May.
A few key tips for butterfly gardens:
- Plant nectar-rich flower varieties
- Multiple plants of the same kind in one spot are easier for a butterfly to see
- Choose host plants for the caterpillars of butterflies, like Milkweed for Monarchs, Lupine for Painted Ladies, Snapdragons for Buckeyes
- Butterfly nectar plants are also great for honey bees and other beneficials, bringing pollination and protection to the rest of your garden
If you know only one butterfly, it is most likely the Monarch! Monarch butterflies especially need our help in providing nectar plants and safe habitats for caterpillars. Many of their previous safe grounds for feeding and laying eggs have been diminished by increased use of GMO glyphosate resistant soy and corn, or plowed over to grow government-subsidized corn for biofuels. Parking lots, roads, and front lawns have also replaced the sweet fields of wild flowers necessary for a healthy butterfly population. Read more about what is happening with Monarchs and what we can do.
One critical plant for the survival of the Monarch butterfly is milkweed. Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars will only feed on this kind of plant. We have found a native variety that also has beautiful flowers and fall seed pods.
Above is Butterfly Milkweed, or Asclepias Tuberosa. It’s a bright orange wild flower that loves full sunlight and fairs well in dryer soil. Monarchs migrate north to lay their eggs and will only lay eggs on milkweeds such as this one. Seeing a chrysalis on a milkweed plant is a rare joy, something we should all get a chance to see.
Some of the other plants we grow that butterflies love:
Buddeleia Butterfly Bush: A woody shrub with fragrant lilac blooms that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficials. Lovely at the back of borders for its height and arching shape. Perennial.
Verbena Bonareisis: Tall, beautiful and purple. An excellent cut flower. Clusters of tiny flowers on top of a long stem that Butterflies love to land on.
Coreopsis: A bright blooming flower that does well in full sun. Perennial.
Marigolds: Bright colors that not only attract butterflies but also repel aphids from your garden. Annual.
Snapdragons: These attract butterflies and provide food for Buckeye butterfly caterpillars. The make beautiful cut flowers as well. Annual.
Monarda (Red Bee Balm and Purple Wild Bergamot): A fragrant, fun and quirky flower. Grows tall and is also a favorite of hummingbirds. Edible for us too! Perennial.
Sweet Alyssum: This flower smells like honey and butterflies and bees enjoy the sweet scent. You will too! Growing in white and light pink. A perfect spring flower that loves cooler weather. Annual.
Echinacea: This flower is drought tolerant and makes an excellent addition to any bouquet. Also known for its healing properties. Perennial.
Salvia Gruppenblau: Shorter, fragrant blue spires that attract hummingbirds also. Great for drying! Perennial.
Cosmos: Idyllic, wispy flowers with long skinny stems. Annual.
Gomphrena: A shooting plant with spikey flowers perfect for drying. Butterflies love to dance around from flower to flower. Annual.
Cleome: Also known as spider flower, this flower is unlike any other. We feature it in many of our summer time bouquets. The large exploding flowers gain everyone’s attention, especially wandering butterflies. Annual.
Ellagance Lavender: Highly fragrant low growing purple flowers. Many uses. Perennial.
Zinnia: One of summer’s most colorful features. Will bloom into the fall! Makes a great cut flower and can be featured in single variety bouquets. Annual.
Yarrow: Large flat-top flower heads on ferny foliage make clouds of color all summer long. A mix of colors on drought tolerant plants. Superb for cutting, and drying as well.
Come visit us at the farmstands in Granby and Montague for even more varieties! Keep an eye out for our poster at the stands that highlights these butterfly flowers, and also read the plant descriptions on display to learn more about each plant.
Best wishes in the garden this summer!