What Kids Can Plant to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Posted on by admin | in babysitting

Getting kids interested in nature, gardening and the natural sciences can help spark their natural curiosity and provide them with hobbies or interests that they carry for a lifetime. The key to fostering that interest is to get them involved in the process of gardening, and to make that garden exciting. In addition to watching their plants grow, seeing their little garden patch become a haven for graceful butterflies can almost guarantee that they’ll love spending time outside. These planting tips will attract butterflies to the garden, which will in turn attract your children away from the television and into the great outdoors.

Host Plants to Attract Caterpillars

In order to attract butterflies to your garden, you’ll need to first ensure that there are a sufficient number of host plants to attract and support caterpillar activity. Choosing and planting these plants is not only necessary for the success of your child’s butterfly garden, but also a great opportunity to teach youngsters about metamorphosis and the butterfly life cycle.

Because caterpillars are small and not able to travel far in order to find the food they need to survive, it’s a good idea to locate host plants near the nectar-rich flowers that will attract female butterflies. Keep in mind that the caterpillars will eat the leaves of these plants, and their activity will be evident. While leaves that have been visibly affected by caterpillars aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing sight, those holes are proof that the caterpillars in your garden are thriving. Looking for signs of caterpillar activity can be an exciting part of the process for your child.

Alfalfa, clover, sunflowers, milkweed, hollyhock and nettle are all attractive to caterpillars, as are herbs like dill and parsley. The leafy tops of carrots are a particular favorite of the black swallowtail.

Nectar Plants for Adult Butterflies

Adult butterflies feed off of the nectar of flowering plants, so an ample supply of these plants is important. Butterflies are most active in mid to late summer, so plants that flower at this time are especially well suited to the support of butterfly activity.

Plants like Butterfly Bush and Butterfly Weed are thus named because of their appeal to butterflies. Zinnia, Bergamot, Bloodflower, Day Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Heliotrope, Tansy, Garlic Chives and Blue Cardinal Flowers are known to attract butterflies as well.

Butterfly Gardening by Zone

While there are some plants that are almost universally supportive of butterflies, the most effective way to create a garden with your child that will be filled with the showy creatures is to do your homework regarding the types of butterfly that are native to your area. Native flowering plants are generally the best choices, as the relationship between local plants and local butterflies is inherently symbiotic.

Creating a Suitable Habitat for Butterflies

Helping your child to select and plant things that will attract butterflies and support caterpillar activity is important, but so is creating an environment that’s suitable as a habitat for those butterflies once they’ve arrived. Insecticides will kill any caterpillars that feed on affected leaves, so it’s best to nix insecticide in your little one’s butterfly garden. Butterflies also need flat rocks for resting, orientation and warming, and a bit of coarse, wet sand for puddling.

With a bit of effort and attention, you and your child can help to support butterfly life in your garden. Keep in mind that the plants will need to be tended, a job that might be a bit too difficult for young children to manage on their own. To increase the odds of heavy butterfly population in your child’s garden and to allow for greater observation of the butterfly life cycle, you might want to consider raising butterflies specifically for release in the garden after they’ve emerged from their cocoons. Butterfly kits are commercially available for just this purpose.

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