Gardening Tips – Grow A Butterfly Garden and Create A Treasure Everyone Will Enjoy


Are you searching for ideas for your Austin Texas Garden? If so, instead of planting flowers, herbs or other plants, why not plant a butterfly garden instead?

What is a butterfly garden? It’s a garden that attracts butterflies who are migrating through Central Texas.

Soil preparation is the same as with any garden. Plants vary in their precise needs but in general, most plants need healthy soil with a certain amount of organic matter mixed in to grow well. Fortunately, butterflies and native plants go hand-in-hand so you will almost certainly find plants that will grow well in your soil type and are also attractive to butterflies.

Getting Started with Planting A Butterfly Garden

Since butterfly plants often consist of many native plants, you will find that your fertilizer requirements may be lower. Organic fertilizer is always best but I have had no problem with some use of chemical fertilizer in the soil.


Butterflies do not care about the shape of a garden so you can layout your garden any way you wish: garden plots, foundation plantings, along fences, even containers.


Regular garden design applies: plant your taller plants in the back, group plants with complimenting colors if possible and plan to have various flowers in bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Not only is this aesthetically pleasing but your butterflies will appreciate varying heights of flowers and the availability of nectar all through the butterfly season. Also, a variety of different plants/flowers equates to a larger diversity of butterflies.


Tiger Swallowtail


If possible, plan your butterfly garden with some wind shelter. I have butterfly plants all around my house, deck, and yard so some areas are more sheltered than others. It’s never been a big issue for us and unless you live in an area that is consistently windy all summer long, then I wouldn’t let the lack of a windbreak deter you. That being said, shelter is great if you can work it into your design. Using shrubs such as butterfly bushes (Buddleia divide, a nectar source) or spicebushes (Lindera benzoin, a host plant) as a windbreak would be ideal.


 Butterflies love a sunny garden, Usually


Butterflies are cold-blooded and must be warm in order to fly. Many butterflies must have temperatures greater than 65F or higher to fly so they use the sun to warm themselves. It is not surprising then that most butterfly nectar plants are sun-loving plants.


When it comes to host plants, there are more varieties that will tolerate some (or a lot) of shade. So, plan your flowering nectar plants for the sunny areas and some of the host plants will fit nicely into your part-shade or shady areas. If you can manage to find at least 6 hours of good sunlight in parts of your yard then that will open your choices of nectar plants (and host plants) considerably.

If, however, you live in a very shady area then all is not lost. There are some varieties of butterflies that actually prefer shady, wooded areas and not-surprisingly, these butterflies do not rely on flower nectar as their main food source. Instead, they are more attracted to rotting fruit, dung, tree sap, etc.


I do not have experience with butterfly gardens in very shaded areas, but if that was what I was working with, I would aim more towards planting the host plants that like shade (Dutchman’s Pipevine, Lindera benzoin), using butterfly fruit feeders rather than relying solely on nectar plants, and trying a few shade-loving nectar plants such as Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Cut-leaf toothwort (Cardamine diphylla), Canada lily (Lilium canadines), and Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa).

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