Imagine stepping out into your yard and seeing a non stop flutter of all sorts of butterflies, leaping from flower to flower in your garden. Sounds like a Disney movie doesn’t it? You can have this and it is easier than you would think.
The first important thing to understand is that to have butterflies it means you have to have caterpillars.
The very basics of their life cycle is:
Butterfly visits a specific host plant and lays eggs.
Eggs hatch caterpillars, which for a time period will need to eat the host plant.
Caterpillars go into the pupa stage where they cocoon for a time period.
Finally a new butterfly will emerge, ready to visit certain flowers for nectar.
Some of these stages are not loved by gardeners. Eggs on leaves can be thought to be future pests. Caterpillars devour plant leaves. These behaviours can result in actions like pesticides or squishing, which in turn prevent the butterflies from becoming a reality.
So this leads us to our first 2 rules of How to fill you yard with butterflies.
#1 No pesticides.
#2 No caterpillar killing.
Pesticides kill in all of the stages of a butterflies life and if you squish the caterpiller, there will be no butterfly. It's a bit of a no brainer here.
Before I can give you the last 2 important steps, you need to understand how butterflies are closely tied to specific plants.
Butterflies will choose a specific plant to lay its eggs on. They do this as they instinctively know the plant they are placing their egg on will provide their caterpillar with the right nutrition or protection from predators it needs.
Let’s take a look at the most well known example, the Monarch Butterfly.
They need the Milkweed plant to survive as it provides the right nourishment for their caterpillars. This is the host plant they lay their eggs on. The native Milkweed dies off at the right time for the Monarch to migrate, encouraging their journey to Mexico. If they did not migrate they would not survive the cold. Other plants can help provide great nectar sources for Monarchs, but their life cycle is dependent on native milkweed plants.
Note: Planting the wrong Milkweed can be very harmful to Monarchs. If you plant a non-
So rule number 3:
If you are like me and want a yard just filled with butterflies, then you will want to plant all the host plants you can. So here are some quick examples of what you can plant:
Zebra Swallowtail -
Eastern Tailed Blue -
Red Admiral -
Morning Cloak -
Location found: North America (Excluding some high northern regions in Canada such as North West Territories)
Gulf Fritillary -
Location found: Southern USA and Northern Mexico
Checkered White -
Location found: Most of the USA, Lower Central Canada and Northern Mexico
Western Tiger Swallowtail -
Painted Lady -
Research butterflies common for your area and they look up their host plants.
Finally, the last rule of filling your yard with butterflies, rule #4.
#4 Plant native nectar flower sources.
These butterflies will also have different plant requirements for nectar sources. Make sure to plant varying varieties of native plants and flowers to ensure the full life cycle of a butterfly is supported.
Check out my YouTube video on creating a pollinator patch to help provide nectar sources.
Let’s recap how to fill your yard with butterflies:
#1 No pesticides
#2 No killing of caterpillers
#3 Plant host plants
#4 Plant native flowers
For some additional great resources on butterflies visit:
Gardens with wings -
National Wildlife Federation -
Great places to buy native plants:
American Meadows -
Ty Ty Nursery -
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I want to share with you a virtual tour of my latest project, the Bee Bar. This is where the Bees can go, to get a buzz! Where nectar is always on tap. Well not really on tap, but you get the theme. The Bee Bar is actually a fun and interesting space in the garden, that has an important purpose to help native bees.
We have a home that we purchased a year ago that has a very American/Canadian type of yard, mostly lawn. A giant green patch of mowing space. I am not a fan of the massive green lawn. Don’t get me wrong I like patches of lawn, but massive areas just for mowing, make no sense to me. The turf lawn is a costly, time waster with no benefits to nature. My challenge, my husband is a lawn lover. Gasp! He doesn’t have time to mow but he does like the lawn and mowing it.
(Look at all that lawn! It's just half of it.)
Slowly over time, what I am doing is carving out flower beds and creating natural habitats, one square at a time. I feel like, if these new squares appear slowly, I can ease my husband into the ever declining green space and the ever growing native space.
What’s in the Bee Bar?
(It is hard to see all the flowers packed into the space, as many are seedlings or have yet to sprout.)
Along with some humour around bar related topics, this Bee Bar is planted with bee benefits and a little education. Each flower has been carefully selected to serve an important purpose.
1. Provide the most nutrient rich native flowers.
2. Offer a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the year.
3. Grow flowers that provide bees with medicinal value.
The bed does not look like much right now because most of what is planted was done recently by seed. There are only two greenhouse plants in the mix. Many flowers you buy at the big box stores are still being treated we chemicals such as neonics, which wreak havec on a bees immune system. As the Bee Bar grows this summer it will fill in quite a bit.
Here is what is planted:
Red Clover -
I have also moved some unidentified native flowers that have popped up in walking path areas, into the Bee Bar. As I see the holes in the Bee Bar I will continue to add in a few more flowers until I just have no choice but to expand. Poor hubby!
(The watering hole. One of the worker bees sole jobs is to collect water for the hive.)
The Bee Bar comes complete with signage for visitors and an actual bee watering hole. I am not sure the watering hole actually attracts many bees, but my bird bath not far away does.
Why bother? It’s just one yard.
‘One acre of wildflower meadow on a single day can contain three million flowers, producing 1Kg of nectar -
That is why I bother. Even if I had half an acre or a quarter, the impact to bees is substantial. It’s my goal to support 96,000 bees one day and the Bee Bar is just the beginning.
Consider adding a Bee Bar to your garden. Show off your creativity and share it with us. Once this fills in I will share an updated picture.
Next up is the butterfly garden. I will need to get thinking on how that one will be creatively displayed, but I already have the plants ready for seeding. Stay tuned for that.
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Learn how some flowers are harming bees.
Native plants are both beautiful and functional.
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Native plants are designed to thrive in their natural habitat without any help from you, the gardener.
This means you don't have to water them as they will be designed to live with the moisture naturally available in your area. They won't require special soils or fertilizing and they will provide for the bugs and birds native to your region.
At the same time native plants are beautiful and unique, bringing all the same joy to your garden as exotic plants, just with a lot less fuss.
Here are my top 3 favourite native plants:
1. Yarrow - Yarrow is said to have herbal uses in the home. This plant attracts butterflies and makes a great dried flower. It can be cut back and mulched into your soil to help improve the soil quality. It is very drought tolerant.
2. Columbine (Shown above) - These are also drought tolerant. They will attract bees and hummingbirds. Their flower is very ornate, looking more like an exotic flower but it is really a hardy native. It is said you can eat the flowers but that is not tested by me. I just can't bring myself to eat my flowers! It is a great seeder. So collect the seeds and expand your collection throughout your garden.
3. Shooting Stars (Shown below) - These flowers are so unique and have a special place in my heart. When I was a young Girl Guide our leader would take us on hikes in the forests of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. On those hikes one of the first flowers I learned about was Shooting Stars. There these unique little gems were growing below the canopies of the giant trees. They do best in a moist spot within your yard. In the first year planted they will likely die back making you think you killed the plant but then pop the next year in full force. Perhaps most liked by me for the nostalgia, but their unique look is something you can enjoy as not everyone will have these in their yard.
The Shooting Stars uniqueness is what makes it stand out in any garden
When I get to the South my new mission will be to learn what new and exciting native plants exist for that region.
That is your Garden Gossip, don't forget to wet your plants!