Creating a Community Butterfly Garden

A woman in our community started a butterfly club and it attracted many members. The first activities included planting plants and flowers in their own yards that caterpillars and butterflies liked. They progressed from that to getting butterfly larvae to hatch and release. The next project was creating a butterfly garden for the whole community to enjoy.

Photo by Virginia Allain

They found a sunny, well-drained location adjacent to a lake and got permission from the community to use the land for a butterfly garden. This fun and rewarding project provides important habitats for local butterfly species. It became a pleasant place for people to go to see butterflies and we take our visitors to see it too.

Steps for Creating a Butterfly Garden

Identify the butterfly species in your area: Research which butterfly species are native to your region and which plants they prefer. Consider planting a variety of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for adult butterflies.

  1. Plan your garden: Draw a layout of your garden and decide which plants to include. Choose a mix of native wildflowers and shrubs that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a continuous source of nectar for the butterflies.
  2. Prepare the soil: Clear any existing vegetation and loosen the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Add compost or other organic matter to improve the soil quality.
  3. Plant your garden: Start with small plants, either seedlings or transplants. Water them well after planting and mulch around the base to retain moisture.
  4. Maintain your garden: Water your plants regularly and remove any weeds or dead plants. Avoid the use of pesticides that would harm the caterpillars and butterflies. Encourage community members to get involved in caring for the garden, and consider holding educational events or workshops.
  5. Monitor butterfly activity: Observe which butterfly species visit your garden and make note of their behavior. This can help you identify any areas for improvement in your garden design or maintenance.
  6. You can enhance the garden for visitors by adding a bench, plant labels, and mulched paths for strolling through the garden.

Creating a community butterfly garden can be a great way to bring people together while also providing important habitats for local butterfly species. With some planning and effort, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden that benefits both people and wildlife.

It would be a great project for a garden club, a scout troop, a 4-H club, or a school activity.

Plants That Butterflies Like

Butterflies have specific host plants on which they lay their eggs, and they also need nectar plants for feeding. Here are some examples of plants that butterflies like:

Host plants:

  • Milkweed (for monarch butterflies)
  • Pipevine (for pipevine swallowtail butterflies)
  • Parsley (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Fennel (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Dill (for black swallowtail butterflies)
  • Passionflower (for gulf fritillary butterflies)
  • Pawpaw (for zebra swallowtail butterflies)
  • Spicebush (for spicebush swallowtail butterflies)

Nectar plants:

  • Butterfly bush (Buddleja spp.)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
  • Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.)
  • Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium spp.)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
  • Lantana (Lantana spp.)
  • Verbena (Verbena spp.)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

It’s important to choose plants that are native to your area, as they are better adapted to local growing conditions and provide a more natural food source for butterflies. A mix of both host and nectar plants will attract a variety of butterfly species to your garden.

If nothing ever changed, there would be no such things as butterflies.

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