A sure sign of spring is an abundance of butterflies fluttering around all the new spring blooms. Gardeners everywhere ask how they can entice more of them into their yards.
Butterflies visit your garden for two main reasons: they’ve discovered nectar-filled flowers to feed on, or they’ve found a food source for their larva on which to lay their eggs. Although caterpillars are eating machines, most will cause little damage to garden plants. Many host plants, such as Passion Vine (Passiflora), which is host to the gulf fritillary butterfly, grow quite rapidly too. Don’t dismiss the possibility of supporting butterflies throughout their life cycle – a few holes in your garden plants are worth the trade-off of having these sprightly creatures frequenting your garden.
With so many nectar-rich plants to choose from, you’re sure to find varieties that suit your taste and landscape. Just a few flowering plants that attract butterflies include Azalea, Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), Butterfly Bush (Buddleja), Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), Daylily (Hemerocallis), Hibiscus, Lantana, Lavender (Lavendula), Marigold (Tagetes), Privet (Ligustrum japonicum ‘Texanum’), Salvia, Verbena, and Viburnum (Viburnum japonicum).
Many San Diego area gardeners are turning their attention toward supporting the migration of monarch butterflies. Especially in early springtime, as overwintering populations prepare to head north, supplies of Milkweed are vital to feed monarch caterpillars. They migrate south again in the fall, so now is a good time to think about incorporating Milkweed into your garden. It’s recommended to plant Milkweed in patches of six plants or more to ensure an adequate food supply, and to try planting in several areas of your yard in case conditions are more favorable in some areas. It’s recommended to cut Tropical Milkweed back every few weeks during the winter. Make sure to have plenty of nectar-filled plants nearby, too, to fortify adult monarchs on their journey.
San Diego is home to roughly 150 species of butterflies. If you’d like to attract a specific type of butterfly to your garden, try visiting a local nature center and observe which native plants they are most attracted to, and plan to incorporate them into your backyard landscape. Then come in and let our experts guide you in planning and caring for your budding butterfly garden.