Saturday, July 7, 2012

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden, Part 1

Butterflies can tell us a lot about the health of our environment. A healthy ecosystem generates a habitat that flourishes with butterflies. To attract and keep butterflies in your yard, you should include both host and nectar plants. So what are host plants? They are plants that butterflies lay eggs on and hatched caterpillars feast on . They are critical to the survival of our fluttering friends. Without them, butterflies would become extinct. Below, you will learn more about different host plants and the 5 butterflies they attract. I will also share some of my personal experience that has come with more than 3 years of studying butterflies.

Passion Flower
Zebra Longwing and Gulf Fritillary


The passion flower is a vine that is not just planted for beauty, but also is a magnet for Gulf Fritillaries. I have found that passion flower planted in full sun attracts more Gulf Fritillaries and when planted in the shade, it attracts Zebra Longwings. I waited three years and finally the Zerbra Longwings discovered my passion flower. Now, they are everywhere!

Zebra longwing blog  Gulf Fritillary 2

Monarchs and Queen butterflies


Monarchs are one of the most famous of all butterflies. Their territory is wide spread and their migration is an incredible journey that fascinates young and old alike. Habitat destruction and wide spread use of pesticides pose the greatest threat to Monarchs. Planting Milkweed, replacing grass with wildflowers, raising caterpillars, and discontinuing use of pesticides are all ways you can help.

Get free Milkweed seeds!

Monarch butterfly Monarch for book 

 queen butterfly

Black Swallowtail


Be prepared to share dill, fennel, and parsley if you have a herb garden. It is worth some chewed up leaves to rear this beautiful Swallowtail butterfly. Just don’t get them mad. The caterpillars have an osmeterium which they can release and they are not afraid to use it! It smells bad and if the caterpillar rubs it on your finger (has happened to me). The smells does not come out very easy.

 butterfly emerged (resized) black swallowtail 9 days old (resized)

caterpillar osterium for book close up 

Wild Petunia and Water Hyssop
White Peacock

White Peacock IMG_2516

These fuzzy caterpillars are fun to raise. I raised hundreds of them and I’ve never lost my fascination with them. They have a fuzzy appearance and have an amazing ability that I discovered by mistake. These little critters can float! God gave them this ability because one of their host plants, water hyssop, grows in wet places. If in danger, they fall off their plant and float. While researching butterflies for writing my first book, I discovered so many things. The internet is useful, but personal research is important as well.IMG_5864 IMG_1182

Cloudless Sulphur

butterfly for book  Cassia flowers for book

Cloudless Sulphur butterflies often visit Cassia trees, along with some others in the Sulphur family. In Florida, the flowers bloom late summer to fall. They cover the tree with blossoms and are a beautiful sight. The trees grow very fast though, and tends to shade my vegetable bed. Since it is a native to our area, it requires little other care besides an occasional trimming.

caterpillar in bud for book  

Elizabeth’s Funny Caterpillar Moments

Monarch heart

To show their love for my garden, my caterpillar chewed a heart in a Milkweed leaf!


  1. THANKS ELIZABETH! Very nice pictures! We live in a condo now and has no space for much gardening, though I'm eyeing an empty spot infront of our village for a butterfly garden. I do need to present a plan to the property management in order for them to consider it. I'm so glad that you are blogging about butterflies, your observations and researches are very helpful. I will also post your blog address in our homeschool message board for the kids who are into butterflies and other insects...I'm sure the parents would be delighted to read your blogs too. GOD BLESS and GOOD HEALTH TO U ALWAYS!

    1. I would love for you to post my blog on a homeschool message board. I've been homeschooled my whole life and received my highschool diploma after taking a nine hour test at Seminole State College. I wrote my book about butterflies with homeschool students in mind. It shows how to make your own nursery, facts about ten different butterflies, butterfly conservatories, and discovery pages.

  2. HI Elizabeth,

    It was a pleasure to meet you, Andrea and Joshua at the Nut Growers meeting in KY last week.

    You have a fantastic blogspot here. Your pictures are simply wonderful. You are very talented. If you post any pictures of the nut tours I would love to see them.

    All the best,
    Linda Grimo