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How to Create a Butterfly Friendly Garden

March 16, 2016

Butterflies are some of the most majestic and interesting insects on Earth, but all too often their habitats are lost due to construction and other human activities. Creating a butterfly-friendly garden or enclosure will help gradually increase the butterfly population and enhance the appeal of your backyard or greenhouse. With the right planning, almost any greenhouse, enclosure, and garden space can be converted into the perfect butterfly environment. Let’s take a look at a few tips for designing the ideal butterfly garden.

Designing the Perfect Layout for Butterflies

The layout and the species of plants in a butterfly garden or greenhouse are critically important to the butterflies’ life cycle. The health of the plants will directly affect the butterfly population and vice versa, therefore, the entire garden community will depend upon proper planning, design, and execution. Butterflies are most attracted to bright, saturated colors, so be sure to plant plenty of vibrant species of flowers in the Spring, such as blue hydrangea, grape hyacinth, purple coneflower, and brown-eyed Susan. Butterflies will also not stop to rest or eat without a flat place to land, so be sure to include plenty of stepping stones and other surfaces throughout the garden.

Feeding the Butterflies

Since it can be difficult to feed butterflies solely on flowers, you may want to include “nectar trays” throughout the garden or greenhouse to keep the butterflies well nourished. Nectar trays can be an actual tray, a small dish, and even sponges soaked with the gardener’s choice of “nectar.” Sugar water, fresh fruit juice, honey, and rotting fruit are all common forms of “nectar.” Remember: butterflies are attracted to bright and vibrant colors, so keep this in mind when choosing a nectar tray. You can also make a homemade butterfly feeder.

Butterflies do not typically drink from clean water sources. Instead of using a tray or bird bath element for water, just ensure there is always wet sand or mud puddles throughout the butterfly garden.

Creating a Butterfly Environment within a Greenhouse

There are a few extra items to consider when creating a butterfly environment within a greenhouse. Butterfly greenhouses need to be designed based on the butterflies’ micro-climate requirements. They require closely-controlled greenhouse ecosystems in order to mimic their natural outdoor habitat; Along with plant species, feeding, and water, the greenhouse’s temperature, humidity, and fertilization must be carefully planned beforehand. It is also important to note that butterflies will be more tolerant of an enclosed environment when they are raised indoors from caterpillars, so keep this in mind if you plan to be raising butterflies inside a greenhouse.

Large panes of glass with minimal framing are ideal for butterfly greenhouses, as they will provide the greatest amount of natural light. Circulation fans should be used in moderation or eliminated completely, as butterflies will not eat when it’s windy, and their spinning blades can crush their wings or pin them against the wall. If fans are used, they should have screens included on their exterior to prevent butterflies from getting sucked into ventilation systems. Vents are required, however, because butterflies enjoy fresh air; for this reason, some butterfly greenhouses are made completely from screens.

Creating a butterfly-friendly garden design is simple and easy with a little preliminary research. Be sure to adequately explore the preferences of your intended butterfly species during the planning stages, as some species are very particular about their food. Once this is all finished, you will be ready to create a butterfly garden!