Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden in Southwest Florida: A Guide for Beginners

Butterfly gardening is a combination of art and science. To attract these beautiful creatures to your garden, you need to understand their life cycles and feeding habits. Milkweed is one of the best-selling butterfly plants, and it attracts the monarch butterfly. Black swallowtail butterflies like fennel, parsley, and dill, while clear sulfur butterflies prefer cassia flowers.

Butterflies need two types of plants to complete their life cycle: larval host plants to feed the caterpillars and nectar plants for adult butterflies to feed on. Common nectar plants include penta, lantana, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, ticks, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, and marigolds. Native to North America, Amorpha fruticosa (indigo shrub) is a vigorous deciduous shrub. Asclepias perennis (aquatic milkweed) is an erect perennial plant with flat umbrellas full of up to.

A drought-tolerant, deer-resistant perennial plant, Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly herb) is prized for its. A large wildflower, Baptisia alba (white wild indigo) is an upright perennial with a long season of. There are 10 species of swallowtail butterflies in Florida and each species of swallowtail uses different larval host plants, such as wild linden, wild cherry, magnolias, tulip, pond apple, papaya and parsley. Flowering plants and shrubs such as butterfly bush, butterfly grass and “Butterfly Blue” pin flower can also attract these winged beauties to your garden.

Butterflies prefer to move from one flower to another of the same type of flower instead of flying from one nectar plant in search of another one that may be growing some distance away. The following native Florida wildflowers work well in a domestic landscape and provide nectar and host larvae to native butterflies and moths: penta, lantana, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, ticks, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod and marigolds. Placing food in a shallow dish will help adult butterflies continue their feeding cycle when nectar plants stop blooming. Butterflies also seek out shallow puddles in the garden as a source of drinking water and a way to obtain vital minerals.

In this chart you'll find some of the most common garden crops and their suitable companion plants: Amorpha fruticosa (indigo shrub), Asclepias perennis (aquatic milkweed), Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly herb), Baptisia alba (white wild indigo). Planting native Florida wildflowers will add seasonal beauty to your garden and attract butterflies by providing them with the vital resources they need. Remember that bees and hummingbirds like most of the same plants as butterflies do so you can create a beautiful garden that will attract all kinds of pollinators! Use a combination of planters, patio planters and hanging baskets to create staggered flowering heights in the butterfly garden.

Alexander Renaud
Alexander Renaud

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