There is something exciting about inviting two of the most beautiful winged creatures to the garden. A slow, dainty butterfly garden plan can establish a stark contrast to the flighty hummingbird bird but is a beautiful contrast nonetheless.
It is even more fortunate then that steps to attract theses species lead to a colorful, planted garden too. Hummingbirds can of course be tempted by feeders hanging or staked in the garden—feeders hanging on trees are particularly inviting as they mimic natural food sources—but planting certain flowers in the garden will also be a fantastic incentive.
The hardest part of the task, however, is knowing which ones to plant. Your location and soil type will have a great affect on this, but popular choices include the red columbine, a plant that thrives in zones 2-8 and blooms early—a great choice for drawing the hummingbirds in to the garden as early in the year as possible.
Growing up to five feet tall and available in a variety of colors, the Delphinium is another popular choice. This hardy plant grows in zones 2-9 and will create a stunning back drop of color for any garden, especially when decorated by the colorful hummingbird.
Like the hummingbird, different species of butterfly are attracted to different flowers. If you plant geraniums and lilacs you may expect to see swallowtails. Or, if you plant daisies you can expect to see queen butterflies.
Again, careful thought of what plants to incorporate into your garden will have a great affect on the wildlife that will visit it. The appropriately named butterfly bush, otherwise known as Buddleja, is a perfect butterfly attraction.
Planting a verbena bush or a hanging fuchsia will also do the trick. To add a splash of color to your design, incorporate the orangey, yellow marigold. Or for a taller variety, choose the sunflower whose seeds attract other birds and wildlife such as the squirrel into the garden
Naturally growing wildflowers in the garden also attract wildlife without you having to put in any effort. Wildflowers can spread quickly and easily, however. Seeds of dandelions, for example are blown easily in the wind and disperse all over the place.
Some weeds attract butterflies but these too may need to be controlled. Milkweed and thistle, for example, will need to be tended to regularly.
Remember that caring for your plants also affects the wildlife that are attracted to them. Be careful using insecticides as these are toxic to butterflies as well as bugs.
Creating a stunning, colorful butterfly garden plan is fun and rewarding in itself but one that is friendly to hummingbirds and butterflies will be truly spectacular.
The Best Plant for a Butterfly Garden
Is there one plant that will almost guarantee to attract butterflies to your garden? The answer is yes… and it is a native plant found in most U.S. states and Southern Canada.
This plant is MILKWEED. Milkweed is the host plant for the very interesting monarch butterfly. This is the plant where the female butterfly lays its eggs and also the food of its caterpillar.
If you are thinking about trying butterfly gardening, this would be the first plant to add to your garden. Butterflies add movement and “life” to your garden and Monarchs, in particular, are fun to observe and their life cycle is quite fascinating.
There are many different types of Milkweed. In my experience, the favorite of Monarchs are the perennial, Swamp Milkweed and the annual, Tropical Milkweed.
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is a neat, multi-branched perennial, 2 1/2-3 feet tall and very easy to grow. It is hardy to zone 3 and a native plant in all but 7 states.
The pretty pink or white flowers bloom from June to August and the plant thrives in full to partial sun. It can be purchased at local garden centers and online.
Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is perennial in the warm, southern states and an annual in colder climates. This 1-2 1/2 feet tall plant should be started from seed in the winter and needs warmth to germinate.
The flowers are bright yellow and orange in color. In my garden, it is the monarch’s favorite egg-laying plant.
The flowers of milkweed are also a favorite nectar source for the monarch and many other butterflies. There are over 100 species of Milkweed North America. It might be interesting to do some research and try some of the native varieties in your area.
I must comment on Common Milkweed which is found in ditches and roadsides around the country. Do not add this plant to your garden. It spreads quickly by underground runners and will show up everywhere.
I learned this the hard way. It was the first Milkweed I added to my garden. Many years later, I am still pulling up this invasive plant.
As the Monarch Butterflies visit your garden, you will begin to observe their fascinating life cycle…and you may become interested in raising monarch butterflies, a very easy and fascinating hobby!
How to Observe the Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly
Observing the life cycle of a monarch butterfly is quite fascinating. The first time I tried raising monarchs, I was amazed! Each miraculous stage of the life cycle turned out to be very interesting to see up close.
In one month I saw:
The minute creme-colored egg the size of pin head turn into a tiny caterpillar the size of a comma.
The voracious caterpillar eat many milkweed leaves and grow from that tiny comma to a fat 2 inch striped caterpillar right before my eyes. It shed its skin (molted) along the way to make room for its growing body.
The absolutely beautiful green chrysalis revealed as the caterpillar molted for the final time a couple of weeks later. It was decorated with a beautiful golden necklace.
The chrysalis gradually turner darker and finally became almost black and translucent. I could actually see the beautiful monarch wings through the thin shell of the chrysalis.
The monarch butterfly suddenly emerge as the shell of the chrysalis split. The butterfly wings were all shriveled at first and the large plump body was filled with fluid.
Slowly the fluid was pumped into the wings which grew and transformed into a perfectly beautiful Monarch Butterfly…right before my very eyes! This is the most amazing transformation!
Each of these stages of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly is very interesting to watch because of the unique and fascinating changes that take place.
YOU…can also enjoy this wonderful hobby because it is very easy to do. Since there is no better outdoor nature activities for kids than raising Monarch Butterflies, make sure and get them involved.
This combines many great lessons, such as science, gardening, responsibility and appreciation for the wonder of creation. All you need is milkweed.
Grow some swamp milkweed (perennial) or tropical milkweed (annual) in your garden or just go to the nearest swampy roadside area where you will probably find some common milkweed.
Watch for the female touching down briefly on the leaves of the milkweed where she will lay her eggs or check the underside of the milkweed leaves for a tiny cream colored egg or a caterpillar.
Bring your “treasure” inside and you also will be able to see the miracle of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly!