When is the time to plant a garden to attract butterflies?

Many people in Shawnee were visited by Monarch butterflies as they made their way to Mexico for the winter. Some were fortunate enough to have them in their garden for several days. Others have had different kinds of butterflies for a longer period of time. The hardy Lantana bushes at the Santa Fe Depot, for example, have been swarming with butterflies recently.

If you would like to develop a garden that will attract and feed butterflies now is a good time to begin planning. The Oklahoma State University Extension Service Fact Sheet HLA-6430, “Landscaping to Attract Butterflies, Moths, and Skippers” is a twelve page instruction booklet that provides excellent guidance. It is available by searching for it on line. Following are some of their recommendations.

Your garden should have a mixture of shrubs, perennials, and annuals that include Oklahoma native plants. The selection should provide blooms throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Butterflies need plants that provide nectar such a marigolds and petunias. Herbs like dill, parsley, chives, and fennel or tomato plants are needed to support larvae which mature into butterflies.

The location is important. Blooming flowers need to have a sunny location that is protected from the wind as much as possible. Butterflies cannot fly when their body temperature is less than 85 degrees. This indicates that the north and west winds need to be shielded from the butterfly garden.

The herb planting could be in another location from the blooming plants. The use of insecticides should be kept to a minimum. Bugzappers should not be used.

Some of the blooming shrubs that provide food for butterflies are Butterfly Bush, Crape Myrtle, Glossy Abelia, Honeysuckle, and Weigela. Perennial and annual flowers include Asters, Black-Eyed Susans, Cosmos, Lantana, Marigold, Pentas, Petunia, Phlox and Verbena.

If you develop a flower garden that attracts butterflies you will find that it is pleasing to your eyes as well. In addition, particularly if it includes red blooms, hummingbirds will be attracted also.