How to start a butterfly garden?

jlk7807July 16, 2010

I love butterflies and would like to start a garden that would attract them. The garden would be getting full sun and partial sun. Can someone tell me some great plants and flowers that would attract them? Thanks!! =]

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bernergrrl(z5 IL)

Hi, You will be sooo happy with having a butterfly garden! There is a FAQ page--link is at the top of the forum's page.

The butterflies in my area love butterfly bush, milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is essential, butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa), Purple COneflowers (Echinacea), eupatoriums (Joe-Pye Weed, Boneset), coreopsis, phlox, bee balm (Monarda), asters.

The milkweeds are great nectar plants as well as food for the Monarch caterpillar. You can also plant Dill, Fennel, or Parsley for the Black Swallowtail caterpillar if you get that butterfly in your area.

I also leave some areas "wild" which contains surprising nectar and caterpillar food plants.

You can also do a search on this forum for butterfly garden and posts on the topic should come up for you.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 7:43AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

If you want lots of plants cheap, check out the Wintersowing forum. The people there are very welcoming and generous with seeds. Heck, I could grab you almost every seed mentioned above from my shoe box of leftovers from last year. If you made a trip up to Michigan, I could give you a headstart with a carload of seedling volunteers from my garden. Have fun and let me know if I can help.

Martha

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:44AM
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ericwi

If you are able & willing to maintain your lawn with no weed killer and/or pesticide, you can have fireflies in the summer, also. On a recent trip east, we saw lots of fireflies, in the evening, along interstate 80, while driving through Ohio.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 1:23PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Where in Ohio are you?
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 1:49PM
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jlk7807

Thanks for all the great advice i really appreciate it! And I'm about an hour west of Columbus Elisabeth. =]

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 2:27PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Then you are close to me. I am in Centerville, south of Dayton. If you go to the Ohio Lepidopterist web site, you can search for species seen in your county. Not all of them will be common, but you can see the ones that you have seen before or would like to encourage. Then you can look at the FAQ pages at the top of this board and research the host plants for those species. Generally, monarchs, great spangled fritillaries, sulphurs, black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtails, pipevine swallowtails, question marks, red admirals, and painted ladies are good ones to look at. Based on how much room you have to work with, you can select plants for those species.

You are close enough to take a day trip down to Cox Arboretum's butterfly house, in Miamisburg. There you can see all kinds of host plants and nectar plants and decide what will work for you. It's open 10 - 4 Sat- Friday, and 12-4 on Sunday, until Labor day. And it's free! If you come on a Saturday between 10 - 12, I will be there and can show you around.

Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 4:52PM
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jlk7807

Thanks a ton Elizabeth! That's a great a idea. When I'm able to come i will let you know! And where would i be able to get the plants for the butterflies? At a local nursery?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 7:17PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Ah the million dollar question. There are lots of places and ways to get the plants. It is a question of how much you want to spend and how native you want to go. You can collect spicebush berries in the early fall and plant your own. It will take a few years for them to get a good size but it is free. Or else you can look on-line for one. I purchased my pipevine at a local nursery. Sometimes Cox sells the right plants. I order seeds for some natives from Prairie Moon. There are also seed exchanges on garden web and a lot of us exchange seed here. Things like Asclepias curassavica (tropical milkweed aka. mexican aka bloodflower) grow quickly. A simple annual garden of tropical milkweed, verbena bonariensis, and zinnias, started from seed, is goregeous and will attract a lot of butterflies. You could start there while you figure out what other plants you want to obtain for the future. Once you figure out what you want, you can ask this board and you will get lots of advice on where to get a particular plant. It is a little different from a typical garden in that there is no one local nursery that caters to butterflies.
Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 8:17PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

I think it might be too late this year but Springhill in Tipp City has a catalog surplus sale every year and you can get starter plants at 99 cents. They are small but I have had excellent luck with them. They frequently have coneflowers, butterfly weed, butterfly bushes and other nectaring plants. They are also the outlet for Audubon at home so they carry many native trees and bushes which are also 99 cents. This year they had one sale where you could fill a nursery cart for 25.00. I got some sizeable ninebark bushes that were dry roots but once I got them in pots, they have leafed out and are gorgeous bushes. A large portion of my yard is landscaped with 99 specials from Springhill. If you are going to be in the area, you might try calling to see if they have anything left over this year.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:31PM
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jlk7807

Great idea Elizabeth, I think I'll do that then go from there. And thanks jeanner, I think I'll have to call them and see what they have, they seem to have some awesome deals. Thanks a ton for the advice, a newbie like me really needs it ahah!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 11:48PM
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fairfieldcircle(6a)

Hi, jlk,

I'm excited to find another Ohio butterfly gardener!

Just wondering...what town are you in?? ...just thinking of some nice nurseries that might be close by your home...there are some good ones hidden away on the byways between here and Columbus.

And now is an excellent time to shop around~~many places have put their inventory on sale, and it's a good opportunity to pick up some choice perennial specimens at low cost.

And don't forget to consider some good shrubs or trees that the butterflies like. They are generally available and easy maintenance and supply lots of nectar and/or provide host (egg laying and larvae food) places.

A fruit tree, a pussy willow, ashes, hackberries, dogwoods, redbuds, sweet bay magnolias, are a few trees that fall into this category.

If I were just starting out with a butterfly garden right now (late July) I would try to get some echinacea purpura plants (your basic coneflower rich in nectar, not the overly hybridized ones) into the ground to get well-rooted before winter comes. Also maybe pick up two popular types of perennial Milkweed (available 'on sale' at nurseries now)~~ these are Asclepias 'incarnata' and Asclepias 'tuberosa'. They serve both as host plants for monarchs and nectar plants for a wide variety of butterflies and are hardy here in OH.

(There is one Milkweed/Asclepias often seen at nurseries, Asclepias currasavica, that is very nice, but it is a tropical plant and not hardy for Ohio, so I would wait to plant that until springtime.)

Then in a few weeks, the seed racks will go on sale and you can pick up some Zinnia (I like Benary's Giant), Verbena bonarienses (terrifically popular with Ohio butterflies) and some other annual butterfly plant seeds for not much money to save to plant next spring.

But if you like to get free seeds or trade seeds/plants be sure to do as others have suggested and go to the Wintersowing forums.

Please keep us posted on your progress. I always want to hear what other Ohio butterfly gardeners are up to!

J.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 9:08AM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Jeanne,
You are going to have to alert us when the Springhill nursery sale is. I always miss it!
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 2:38PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

I will do that! This year they spread it out over a month, which was good as there wasn't a huge crowd but they didn't have everything there at once. We went several times and found different items each time.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 8:01PM
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jlk7807

I'm in Yellow Springs, fairfieldcircle! And thanks for all the great suggestions for plants and trees and shrubs, I will be looking around for these and for some great sales! Thanks everybody! =)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 1:13AM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

My husband grew up in Yellow Springs. You probably know each other :).
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 4:57PM
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jeanner(SW Ohio - Z6)

Is Stutzmans still open? I think I heard they were going to close, what a shame , it was a great nursery.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 8:20PM
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jlk7807

I'm not really sure jeanner, sorry. =[ And hmm I'm not really sure I would know him Elisabeth, I'm only 18 lol! =]

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 11:41PM
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jlk7807

Oh, and by the way, I didn't mean that you were old Elisabeth by saying I was only 18! LOL

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 11:47PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

I did not take it that way! How are your plans going?
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 9:03AM
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jlk7807

It's really weird..I haven't started the garden yet because my boyfriend and i have been busy renovating our house, (which is why i haven't been able to be on lol), but there are a TON of butterflies out at our new house. It's out in the county and i swear I've seen at least 6 different butterflies flying around. They are EVERYWHERE! I can only imagine how many will be around when i actually plant the garden LOL!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 10:39PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Try to identify what you have so you can find their hostplants. If you have them on your property, you can "enhance" with them. This just means, not mow them down, move them to where you want to, or propagate more. Then you can decide what additional host plants you want to add to attract more. In Yellow Springs, you are lucky to have the Glen and John Bryant parks close by, so you will see some butterflies others will not, such as Spicebush and Zebra Swallowtails.

I was up at a friends farm near Springfield. I was amazed just walking around his house. In the ten minutes I walked around he had over seven species. It is a big difference from the Dayton suburbia. He had multiple question marks and hackberries on his hummingbird feeder! Made me laugh. He had planted a lot of native prairie plants on the hill by his house which probably helped.

Good luck on your reno!
Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 9:56AM
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jlk7807

I know for sure that i've seen monarchs and I THINK i've seen a spicebush swallowtail, but it wasn't exactly like the pictures i've seen. The one i have saw had orange on the tips of its wings also but the orange weren't spots on it, it was more like it started out dark orange and as it went up it got lighter on its wings, so i really have no idea. Lollll. And i've also seen one that is black with what looked like was yellow dots on it, but i can never be for sure bc they fly by so fast its hard for me to tell. And i'm 90% sure i've seen a few eastern tiger swallowtails.
And i've also seen these ones, i'm not sure if its a moth or butterfly, but it is gray orange and black. And on the back of its with there is an orange dot surrounded by black, which makes it look like it has eyes on its wings lol.
But, basically, as you can see, i really have no idea what i've seen, just making some guesses based on pictures i've seen lolll. I'll try and get some pics up sometimes soon!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 4:47PM
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caterwallin

jlk, Maybe the one butterfly you saw was a Gray Hairstreak.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gray Hairstreak

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 8:03PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

I don't have my book near me and am too tired to look up scientific names...So, try googling Red-Spotted Purples and
Common Wood Nymphs.
Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 8:26PM
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kathymancha

JLK - I bought several of those butterfly seed mats when I bought my house and never planted them. Now I don't think I will use them. If you are interested I can mail them to you. I've had them a couple of years and don't know how effective they are but hey they are free! Worth a shot, maybe. Let me know if you're interested. Not this is this is the same one but it's similar.

Here is a link that might be useful: butterfly mat

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 8:22PM
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jlk7807

Elisabeth- Those red spotted purples look exactly like what i saw! They're so pretty =)! Those wood nymphs don't really look like what i saw though, the ones i saw had orange on them and were shaped differently, so I'm not sure. I'll try and get some pictures, but my cameras been acting funny. For some reason it won't focus on anything up close, but it will focus on the back round? I just can't figure out whats wrong. And Kathy, thanks for offering! But i doubt I'd use them either, I'd probably forget I had them, I've been so busy! But thanks, I appreciate it! =)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 11:14AM
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susanlynne48(OKC7a)

Waaahhhhh! I wanna move to the country!!! I miss out on seeing a lot of butterflies that simply thumb their noses at the big city!

JLK - you might want to observe when you're out there, just what trees, shrubs, weeds, forbs, are in and/or around your home in the country. You might have a lot of plants just by default because a lot of butterflies rely on natives which grow naturally in your area. Get a field guide for native plants of Ohio to help you along. Look at the foliage on the trees and plants to see if you can find caterpillars or evidence of caterpillars like frass, chewed leaves, and take photos of the leaf, flowers, stem, growth, to try to ID them online or in your field guide. Eventually, and often without realizing it, you will become so familiar with the various trees and plants you have observed that the ID will "click" in your mind. As young as you are, it should happen much quicker than it does with an elder like me. LOL!

I bet you will have a lot of hosts and nectar plants that you don't know you have right now.

Susan

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 6:18AM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Okay, try Hackberry butterfly and Tawny Emperor. Also, try question marks and buckeyes. We are having a lot of those this year. Earlier we had a lot of Red Admirals. You can try that too.
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 3:17PM
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jlk7807

LOL Susan!! We have a crab apple tree in our back yard, I'm not sure if butterflies like these but when ever i walk through the yard, and over the apples laying on the ground, a ton of moths and other insects fly up lol. Behind our house there is a farm, and along the fence line there are nothing but huge weeds growing and some wildflowers, which is where i always see the butterflies. And the next door neighbor also has a vegetable garden growing and i always see them fly over there.
I want to keep all the weeds along the fence, but i don't think the neighbors like it too much, and neither does my bf lol.
And Elizabeth, hmmm none of those seem to look like the ones i have in my yard. I haven't been able to go out to my house bc i've been very sick, but as soon as i feel better i promise ill get a picture of it, hopefully my camera works!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 12:03PM
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jlk7807

I come bearing photos! Those butterflies that i've been seeing with 'eyes' on their wings were actually buckeyes Elizabeth! Those are everyyyyywhere in my yard! I was trying so hard to get these pictures, but they would just NOT stay still!! Any other day they would just sit there as calm as could be, but nope, not today! They all would flutter by head, then just fly away...just teasing me! I saw two red spotted purples flying around and i got a picture of it, but it's not very good, i tried to get as close as i could without it flying away. And i also got a picture of what i think is an eastern tiger swallowtail, but it wouldn't stay still long enough for me to tell!
Buckeye:

Have no idea what these are, but they're very tiny and i have more of these than anything in my yard:

Red spotted purple:

I also found two butterflies mating! Well, my bf did lol! I don't know what kind they are though:


I don't know what this is either, but it was pretty:

This is the same one, but with it's wings closed:

That's all for now!!! =))))))!!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 12:05AM
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jlk7807

Woops, i almost forgot the eastern tiger swallowtail, i think!
All you can see is the tips of its wings, bc it wouldn't stay still! I was so disappointed that i couldn't get it.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 12:10AM
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susanlynne48(OKC7a)

The photos of the mating butterflies are Silver Spotted Skippers. I love them, they're so much fun to watch.

The photos of the butterfly with wings closed and wings open, are Hackberry Emperors. You can attract them also with a dish of rotting fruit like bananas, peaches, canteloupe, watermelon, and many more. This will also get you the Red Spotted Purples, Tawny Emperors, Question Marks, Commas, and Red Admirals. These butterflies all feed on rotting fruit, dung, etc. Sometimes I have so many at the feeder, it's hard to tell one from the other. I use one of those suet feeders for birds and stick the fruit in it and hang it up close to the hummingbird feeder. That way, it also attracts fruit flies that the hummers love.

Looks like you are having a lot of fun with your butterflies!

Susan

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:42AM
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jlk7807

Aw thanks Susan for the advice! I will definatley be setting out some fruit! And those Silver Spotted Skippers are hilarious! I was out at my house today and all i saw were them mating! They kept chasing each other, they seem to be horn dogs haha! I also got some waaay better photos of a Red Spotted Purple, it was nectaring on the apples from out crab apple tree, it let me get so close!
I've also got some more pictures to share!
I was wondering who this little guy was..i was walking back towards my house and i saw him on the ground, he was going so fast! I went to get a stick to move him, and when i came back i couldn't find him! =(

I don't know what this is either, but he was a good model:

Thiisss one let me get so close, it stayed very still. It was almost like the apples it was on were mesmerizing it lol:



This is a Viceroy i think:

And this made me sad. Look what i found in my uncles grill today =(:

And on a completely unrelated note, look at this cool spider web in a window at our house!:

I think im getting a little photo happy...haa

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:40PM
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jlk7807

I almost forgot my favorite picture!:

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:55PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Nice! The second picture you posted (the little orange and black jobs) are Pearl Crescents. They like asters. Yes, that is a Viceroy! Congratulations! You are in a good area for butterflies! You will be able to have a lovely garden with lot's of butterflies in it.
Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 9:52AM
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jlk7807

Check out this black swallowtail (i think) that was fluttering all around my yard today!!!!



Wooooooooo!!!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 7:18PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Yes, that is a Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). You can tell by the black spot in the orange circles.
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 9:22PM
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jlk7807

I can't believe how lucky I am to have all these butterflies out here, especially considering I haven't even planted anything. It's awesome! =) I've even got my boyfriend into it...he yells for me whenever he sees one lol.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 10:24PM
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geo25

Hi, I'm a noob when it comes to butterfly gardening. I really want to attract butterflies to our garden. I searched online on how to attract these insects and I found this blog post:

http://finscar.blogspot.com/2011/06/invite-butterflies.html

The post includes plants that a certain butterfly species feed on. I'm not sure about the post. I don't want to go buying plants that would turn out useless. Could anyone please verify if the plants mentioned would really attract butterflies?

Thank you.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 8:19AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

geo25,

Go to the FAQs on the top of the Butterfly forum page. You will find a wealth of information about plants for nectar, and plants for egg laying. Anything and everything you want to know is contained in the FAQs.

Welcome to the forum.

Sandy

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:45AM
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