While visiting a local nursery, a butterfly landed on one of the flowering perennials I'd intended to buy. That particular flower caught her eye, though most of my other choices were a big thumbs down. Off she went to inspect the rest of the nursery's inventory and I was right behind her!
Admirals, Emperors, Skippers and Snouts
These days, my gardens are a flutter of activity because ~ in addition to flowers ~ I plant a few veggies which encourage them to stay. Nectar-rich blossoms attract butterflies to your garden, though chances are, they were born nearby. Try offering plants that meet a butterfly's needs through all four life stages - egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult.
Mother Swallowtails (very popular in my area) are particularly fond of parsley, carrots, and parsnips. If she spots these goodies, you'll make a new friend fast. She'll lay her eggs in the leaves so baby caterpillars are well-fed, once they enter the world.
Their survival technique of feeding strictly on Milkweed is very clever, indeed. Milkweed contains a poisonous substance palatable to butterflies, making them distasteful to birds and other predators. The Monarch's distinctive markings give predators fair warning that they won't make a very tasty meal.
Many places have identified a "state butterfly," one that already enjoys hanging out in your geographical area. This is a great place to begin. Once you discover the butterflies that frequent your backyard, simply plant a section in the garden to meet their needs. Visit The Butterfly Site to learn more about the many butterflies who will happily call your garden home.
To start a Monarch Butterfly Way Station consider planting these varieties of Milkweed (much loved by other butterflies, too!)
Showy Milkweed – (A. speciosa) is a less invasive, western native. Grows to 4 feet with light pink flowers. Tolerates dry soil.
Butterfly Milkweed – (A. tuberosa) is an eastern and southwestern native. Grows to 3 feet with showy orange, red, or yellow flowers. Prefers dry soil.
Common Milkweed – (A. syriaca) - Pictured Above - grows 5 feet tall, with fragrant lavender flowers. Spreads rapidly by rhizomes and will happily take over in the garden if you allow it...
* The typical life span for a Monarch adult is 3-5 weeks. A migrating Monarch, from the last generation in summer, can live to the ripe old age of 8 months.