Photo: How to create a butterfly garden

(Credit: Carol Pasternak)

By Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki's Queen of Green

All gardens are not created equal. Just ask a butterfly.

Creation and restoration of butterfly habitat offsets those destroyed by development, roadside mowing or wetland drainage. (Gardening pesticide-free helps, too.)

Whether you have a small plot in the city or a few acres, you can transform your yard into a butterfly garden!

What you'll need to attract butterflies

Choose native flowers and shrubs. Butterflies need nectar plants for food and host plants to lay their eggs.

  • Tiger swallowtails choose nectar plants like lilacs or bee balm; nearby willow, alder, or apple trees can host larva.
  • Painted ladies choose nectar plants like aster, cosmos or zinnia; host plants include thistle, mallow or hollyhock.
  • Monarchs choose nectar plants like milkweed, lilac, goldenrod, black-eyed Susans and cosmos; host plants include the milkweed family.

To attract butterflies like the red admiral, tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak, you can also set up a nectar feeder using a solution of one part sugar to 18 parts water.

Did you know?

Sunny days are best for butterfly watching.

  • Some butterflies live only a week, but the flight season for a species may be more than a month — and the migrating monarch "super generation" may live for several months.
  • In B.C., butterfly season runs from March through October.
    * Females are slightly larger than males — because she carries the eggs!
  • Butterflies and hummingbirds share many nectar flowers, so efforts to lure one may have the bonus of attracting both.

Most butterflies only live a week. Make those few precious days count: plant a butterfly garden!