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Diggin' It

Butterflies everywhere

By / June 2, 2008

BUTTERFLY MAGNETS: All pentas (annuals also known as star clusters) attract butterflies, as the name of this variety - Butterfly Mix - reminds you.

Courtesy of the National Garden Bureau

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On Saturday, Powell Gardens in Kingsville, Mo. (about 30 miles east of Kansas City) opened a butterfly garden.

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Actually, they’re calling it an "Insectaries Garden" because it will attract other pollinating and beneficial insects as well as butterflies. Among the butterfly-approved flowers in the garden, horticulturists have taken care to include many native plants such as pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida).

My favorite butterfly conservatory is the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., an hour southwest of Atlanta. I can spend hours there.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has an excellent Butterfly Habitat Garden. It also has a current Butterflies + Plants exhibit that I can’t wait to visit. It has stirred up a bit of controversy because the Smithsonian is charging a $6 admission fee.

If you’d like to create your own butterfly garden, there are a number of websites that provide all the information – and inspiration – you’ll need:
The University of Kentucky
The Butterfly Site
Creating a butterfly-friendly garden

In my experience, there are two main rules to keep in mind if you’re serious about encouraging butterflies to make their home in your yard from spring until fall: 1) Have one or more butterfly favorites in bloom at all times, starting with pansies in spring and maybe ending with goldenrod in the fall. 2.) Include plants that the caterpillars will use for food – such as the yellow wild indigo that Powell Gardens has planted.

And if you’d like to visit some of the ones designed by professionals, The Butterfly Website maintains a list of them around the world. There’s hardly anywhere you might travel that doesn’t have a large butterfly garden open to the public from Africa to northern Europe.

And I can see why. Everyone - even kids - loves to watch these winged jewels.

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