Butterfly Nectar Plants

Including butterfly nectar plants in your landscape serves a couple of purposes. Butterflies are important pollinators and with the difficulties that honey bees have had the last few years, they are even more important. They are also a source of enjoyment- keeping a diary of the various species or just watching them flit from flower to flower can give the gardener hours of enjoyment.

There are many butterfly nectar plants that grow wild. These plants are usually considered weeds, but they have beautiful flowers none the less. Milkweed, Ironweed, Goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed, and the various Asters are all plants that like to grow wild and attract butterflies. There are few things as beautiful as a field filled with Goldenrod and Ironweed in the fall.

In fact, many of these so-called weeds have been adapted for the home gardener who wants to have these butterfly nectar plants in their own garden. Solidago (Goldenrod), many Asters, and Butterfly bush (Buddleia) are examples of these plants.

Nature loves diversity. Just as there is a variety of butterflies, the plants that attract them are wide in variety. Planting a mix of them and taking into account the time of the season that they bloom will insure that you have a constant parade of beautiful insects in your garden. Some of the plants that are most popular with butterflies are Asters, Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed (Monarda), Cone Flowers (Echinacea), Marigolds as well as Oregano, Mints and other culinary herbs.

Some shrubs also have flowers that attract butterflies such as blueberries, hollies, verbenas, and of course Buddleia.

Of course, some butterflies are not so nice. The cute little white ones flying around your brassica crops are the parents of cabbage loopers which love to chomp on your broccoli and cabbage. This is where the home gardener has the opportunity to act responsibly. Instead of breaking out a broad spectrum insecticide and spraying everything, you can act surgically to apply the proper insecticides only to those plants that you want to protect. Looking over your plants daily can help you keep the bad bugs in check.

Butterflies are also a great source of excitement for children. Show them the lifecycle of these insects and tell them how they are more than just a pretty insect. Take them for a walk in a field with milkweed and look for the beautiful chrysalis of the Monarch butterfly with its shiny gold spots.

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