Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pollinator Habitat | Planning a Butterfly Garden

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There is nothing more delightful than watching a butterfly skip along a flower bed on a warm summer day. I have a carpet of perennials that bloom from March through Winter. The first blush is a mix of Louisiana Phlox and purple Iris. After these fade the Purple Coneflower comes on full strength and tolerates that early summer heat and then the blue mistflower covers as the coneflower fades. All of these flowers have colors that produce that Ah feeling of relaxation as you passively enjoy your butterflies after a long day at work. 

Nectar Plants

These are the plants that the adult butterflies feed on. These flowers contain nectar which is basically sugar water. The nectar is vital to the survival of the butterfly.



AbeliaAbelia shrubs have an arching form. It is hard to adapt the abelia to a formal garden. The abelia has a weeping form. My observation is the swallowtails seek out the less ubiquitous flower. The scent is a light sweet perfume, not as significant as the earlier blooming jasmines, but softly striking. The light pink flowers are small but abundant. The shrub is semi-deciduous, tolerates drought, and grows well under my many native oak trees.

Anise Hyssop. Anise hyssop is a forb or herb in the mint family. It tolerates drought. I have it planted with lavender due to their similar water needs but the purple flowers on both  plants are shaded quite differently. The Anise hyssop has a showy lavender magenta flower born on a spiky stem. The spikes tend to take on the Albert Einstein hair style, also, but deadheading keeps it tidy. Several small species of butterfly flutter around this and the nearby blackfoot daisy. I have not noticed a scent.


Bee Balm. Bee Balm or monarda is a tall and very showy plant. The Peter's Purple variety does well along the outer edge of the butterfly garden. It is a great perennial, flowering in the early spring (April). It does seem to attract more bees than butterflies but butterflies are attracted to masses of color and this is an entire cheer leading squad of purple pom poms. 

Four O'clockEasy to start from seed is the characteristic that jumps first to mind when considering this perennial. Four O'clock plants are a tall forb with a surprising feature, the flower color can be yellow, white, red or magenta or a combination of these colors. Mirabilis jalapa, Mirabilis means wonderful. Native of Peru 


Flame Acanthus. Hummingbird bush has a red tubular flower. The shrub is deciduous. Since hummingbirds tend to be territorial the feeding function of this flower is generally reserved for the hummingbird from my observations. 


Joe-Pye Weed. A tall forb, joe-pye weed is located in a back corner of my yard. 

Lantana. Several lantanta in gold and red form a mass of color to attract butterflies in a full sun setting






Passion Flower. This vine hosts the larvae of Gulf Fritillaryor Passion Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae)

Purple ConeflowerGrown enmass, for May nectar. Easy to start from seed and tolerates many soil types and water restrictions.

Echinacea (ek-i-nay-she-ah). A genus or native perennials of the Asteraceae (Aster Family)  Attracts butterflies all summer long - A favorite flower of the Monarch butterfly. - Easy sowing, germinating and growing - Heat tolerant.









Tiger Swallowtail 

Tiger Swallowtail (Pterourus glaucus) - female
















Black Swallowtail 

Black Swallowtail-female (Papilio polyxenes)

Host Plants for Black Swallowtail and most swallowtail caterpillars: Parsley, Dill, Rue Leaves of plants in the parsley family (Apiaceae) including Queen Anne's Lace, carrot, celery and dill. 
Nectar Plants:  Nectar from flowers including red clover, milkweed, and thistles.





Common Buckeye

Host Plants (for larvae) Common Buckeye Caterpillar: Plants from the snapdragon family including snapdragon (Antirrhinum) and toadflax (Linaria); the plantain family including plantains (Plantago); and the acanthus family including ruellia (Ruellia nodiflora). 
Texas Native: Ruellia drummondiana is a larval host and nectar source.
Nectar Plants: Favorite nectar sources are composites including aster, chickory, gumweed, knapweed, and tickseed sunflower. Dogbane, peppermint, and other flowers are also visited.

Host Plants (for larvae): Passion Flower Vine
Various species of passion-vine including maypops (Passiflora incarnata) and running pop (Passiflora foetida).




Painted Lady
Host Plants (for larvae): Caterpillar Hosts: More than 100 host plants have been noted; favorites include thistles (Asteraceae), hollyhock and mallow (Malvaceae), and various legumes.
Adult Food: The Painted Lady prefers nectar from composites 3-6 feet high, especially thistles; also aster, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and joe-pye weed. Flowers from other families that are visited include red clover, buttonbush, privet, and milkweeds.


Monarch and Queen

Host Plants (for larvae): Mexican milkweed 
Adult Food: Nectar from all milkweeds. Early in the season before milkweeds bloom, Monarchs visit a variety of flowers including dogbane, lilac, red clover, lantana, and thistles. In the fall adults visit composites including goldenrods, blazing stars, ironweed, and tickseed sunflower.



Pearl Crecent





Orange Sulfurs

Host Plants (for larvae): Plants in the pea family (Fabaceae) including alfalfa (Medicago sativa), white clover (Trifolium repens), and white sweet clover (Melilotus alba).
Adult Food: Nectar from many kinds of flowers including dandelion, milkweeds, goldenrods, and asters. 

Texan Crescent

Host Plant for larvae:  Various plants of the acanthus family including Ruellia, Jacobina, Beloperone, and Siphonoglossa.
Texas Natives:
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii is a larval host nectar source. 
Branched foldwing (Dicliptera brachiata) is a larval host and nectar source. 









©  Grassroots Horticulture
2014 - 2016


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