Natural meadows have almost disappeared from our cities and suburbs.
Gone too are the butterflies, birds and other wildlife that depend
on this natural habitat. Luckily, butterflies are easily enticed
back to the city. It is simple to plant a garden that provides
caterpillars with plants to feed on and butterflies with flowers
from which they can sip nectar. Creating and restoring butterfly
habitats will also provide you and your family with a unique opportunity
to observe butterflies close to home. Chances are some of the
plants that already grow in your garden or back yard can be used,
and with a bit of planning additional butterfly friendly plants
can be added in the spring.
The ideal location for a butterfly garden is a large, open, wildflower-filled meadow that is basking in the sun and shielded from strong winds.Unfortunately it is impossible for the majority of Canadians to
recreate these exact conditions, however it is important to try
and provide for a few basic requirements in your butterfly gardens;
Sunshine: Butterflies love the sun. A site with good exposure
is more likely to attract butterflies and keep them around. A
few large stones to capture heat and provide basking spots are
also a good addition.
Shelter from the wind: Butterflies rarely fly during strong winds
and it will be difficult for them to feed on all the great food
plants you provide if they are exposed to wind. It may be helpful
to establish your garden in the shelter of hedges or shrubs, some
of which may be good larval food plants (check the lists below).
Water and minerals: Butterflies also need to drink, which is how they get minerals. They often drink from muddy puddles. A patch damp soil, sand, or manure will easily satisfy this requirement. Perhaps you can create a small mud puddle in your sandbox?
A pesticide free environment: Although some people may find chemical
pesticides an easy way to get rid of unwanted insects and weeds, unfortunately these will also prevent friendly insects like butterflies from establishing themselves in your garden. For more information on organic gardening and alternatives to chemical pesticides you can visit this organic gardening directory: http://www.biodynamics.com/
In order to attract butterflies to your garden, plant selection
is very important. You will want to plant both nectar sources
and larval food plants. Nectar plants are common flowering plants.
Butterflies obtain most of their food from these. When planting
nectar sources it is important to consider when they will be flowering
and to plan on having nectar sources available throughout the
growing season. You may also want to minimize your use of hybrid
garden plants such as roses, lilies and geraniums as they have
almost no nectar. You can choose from both annual and perennial
species, as well as shrubs and wildflowers. The best way to ensure
frequent butterfly visitors is to plant a diverse garden with
a wide variety of nectar sources from herbs, grasses, wildflowers,
annuals, perennials and shrubs.
If you intend to attract a more permanent population of butterflies
you will also want to include some larval food plants in your
garden. Some larval food plants are common Canadian trees and
these may already be present in your yard or neighborhood. Other
common larval foods are vegetables that you may already have growing
in your garden. In this case you may have to share your harvest
Because Canada is such a large country with so many ecozones specific
plant selection will vary from one region to another. Plant suggestions
are provided below for four Canadian regions along with links
to additional sites that carry information on butterfly gardening
and plant selection.