Attracting Butterflies to Your Feng Shui Garden

To coax butterflies into your Feng Shui garden, choose flowers that butterflies love, make sure they have places to sun themselves, and supply plenty of water to drink. Butterflies get a little picky about where they want to live, however, so plan your butterfly garden while taking their needs into consideration:

  • Because butterflies need shelter to feed and lay eggs, making the butterfly garden a protected space helps attract butterflies to it.

• A windbreak of shrubs or trees can serve as the back "wall" of the butterfly garden.

• Planting tall plants at the back and on the sides of the garden can also protect the garden (and, ergo, the butterflies) from wind.

  • Graduate the height of the plants so that the shortest are in front (it helps you see the butterflies better.)
  • Plant the flowers so that similar colors are grouped together.
  • Because butterflies need liquid, you may want to create a small section with wet sand or mud (butterflies get some nutrients indirectly from wet sand or mud).
  • Butterflies are most active in mid- and late summer, so make certain that you have plenty of nectar-rich plants blooming then.
  • If you can avoid it, don't use herbicides and pesticides because they may poison the butterflies that come to visit your garden. Wouldn't that be pretty pointless?
  • Provide plants where they can lay eggs
  • Create places to hibernate; and provide flat rocks for basking

Plants that attract butterflies are also likely to attract wasps and bees. If you have allergies to these bugs, you may want to rethink the whole butterfly garden idea.

Morphing through the life cycle of a butterfly

Butterflies don't start out as butterflies — they begin life as caterpillars. And, of course, not all kinds of butterflies want the same things. The point is, different butterflies want different things at different stages in their lives. Sort of like a high-maintenance date.

Finding out what caterpillars love

Keep in mind that during the voracious caterpillar stage, butterflies-to-be require different foods from when they become full-fledged butterflies. The following list features plants that caterpillars prefer.

  • Birch
  • Daisy
  • Elm
  • Hollyhock
  • Lilac
  • Milkweed
  • Poplar
  • Snapdragon

Choosing plants that attract butterflies

Different species of adult butterflies are attracted to different kinds of plants because they have different preferences in nectar. (See Table 1). Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Choosing and planting a variety of butterfly-friendly plants is like offering a buffet to butterflies. Each species can find something it likes. Just think of your garden as the all-you-can-eat salad bar in the neighborhood.
  • Butterflies like wild flowers and cultivated plants, so consider planting both types. Just remember that some wild flowers that butterflies like may actually be considered noxious weeds, so pay attention.
  • Pick plants that flower at different times of the year, even different times of day. This way, plants will always be flowering and attracting butterflies to your garden.
  • Group members of the same plant species together. Butterflies have a harder time finding single flowers. (Notice how all the fast food joints cluster together just off the highway? Same principle.)

Table 1: Plants Popular with Various Butterflies

Butterfly

Plant

Black swallowtail

Butterfly weed, alfalfa

Checkered skipper

Aster

Checkered white

Bee balm

Monarch

Cosmos

Orange sulfur

Marigold, zinnia

Painted lady

Hyacinth, zinnia, many others

Two-tailed swallowtail

Geranium

Wood nymph

Clematis

Your county extension agent can advise you on local plants that are likely to attract butterflies to your garden. The agent can also tell you where to find information on butterflies native to your area.

No two butterfly garden experts actually agree on which plants butterflies are most likely to be attracted to, so do your own research. Keep a journal and try different plants, noting which ones seem most successful in your area. In no time, you'll be a butterfly garden expert.

If you're looking for user-friendly plants to populate your butterfly garden — you want the butterflies but not the gardening — check out the following list:

  • Coneflower
  • Cosmos
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia

Many herbs are attractive to butterflies, so you can create an aromatherapy-herbal garden that doubles as a butterfly garden! Here's a sampling:

  • Anise
  • Catnip
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Spearmint
  • Sweet Fennel
  • Thyme

Coaxing butterflies to visit

In addition to planting flowers that butterflies like, you can make your garden attractive to butterflies by providing them with supplemental food and places to bask in the sun.

You can make butterfly feeders to supplement the nectar produced by the flowers in your garden. These feeders make a quick and fun project with the kids. Just expect to end up with sticky hands and countertops.

Making a jar feeder

To create a jar feeder, you need

  • A small jar, such as baby food jar, with lid
  • A wad of cotton
  • Sugar-water solution (see below)
  • Brightly colored string or ribbon, about 18 inches. Red string is used a lot in Feng Shui the length of which is always in multiples of nine (a very auspicious number).
  • Drill

After you gather your supplies, follow these simple steps:

1. Drill a small hole in the lid of the jar.

2. Feed a piece of cotton through the hole.

3. Fill the jar with sugar-water solution.

4. Attach the lid to the jar.

5. Tie the string around the jar.

6. If needed, glue the string to the jar.

7. Hang the jar in a tree near but slightly above nectar-producing flowers.

Clean the feeder and change the sugar water and cotton every week, more often in extreme heat.

Cooking up a sugar-water solution

Making a sugar-water solution for butterflies is easy. Just follow these easy steps:

1. Mix one part of sugar with nine parts of water. (For the mathematically challenged, that's one teaspoon of sugar combined with nine teaspoons of water . Or, use tablespoons if you need want more solution.)

2. Boil the sugar and water together for several minutes until the sugar dissolves.

3. Let the solution cool, and then pour into your butterfly feeder.

Balancing living energy with still energy

The principles of Feng Shui are in full force in a butterfly garden. Remember to keep a balance between living energy (yang) and still energy (yin). Consider that having a garden full of butterflies may someday seem like a hive full of bees. In other words, they create lots of yang energy as they flit from flower to flower. To counteract all that craziness, consider the following:

  • Instead of creating an entire garden for attracting butterflies, consider planting just one raised bed.
  • Alternate butterfly-attracting plants with those that don't attract butterflies.
  • If you have lots of butterflies in your garden, balance that energy with open areas of calm (yin energy) — perhaps a tranquil water feature and dark-colored plants or structures.

And don't forget to place a bench or chair nearby for you to sit and enjoy your handiwork!

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