Butterfly Tip: Weed Not Want Not

Butterfly on Clover Butterfly Tip: Weed Not Want Not

Butterflies are uber popular right now it the gardening world,  and from decorations to special garden plots especially designed to attract them, there are a myriad of ways to get your butterfly fix in the garden!  You can try things like adding butterfly friendly water features to your yard, or planting shade trees that act as a host for their eggs, but one of the most butterfly friendly things you can do in your garden plot is a cheap “fix” you’re going to love.  NO WEEDING!

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Native To Know: Penstemon ‘Beard Tongue’

img 1629 225x300 Native To Know: Penstemon ‘Beard Tongue’

Native plants are notoriously tolerant of both the wet spring weather, and the droughts that stretch through the North American summer months, and Beard Tongue (Penstemon) is an airy example of drought tolerance that has the appearance of an English garden staple.

Penstemon comes in hundred of cultivars, but the original native varieties generally are sold under the name “Beard Tongue.” A full or partial sun perennial, this plant is easily grown from seed, or as a live plant.  It does well in naturalized areas near woodlines, or in meadow since it doesn’t need too much water to thrive, and fits in well with other formal garden plants like Lavender, Roses, Daisies, and Purple Coneflowers.

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Tips to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden, Yard or Patio

img 0067 300x225 Tips to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden, Yard or PatioWhile butterflies may not be the most important or efficient pollinators (in terms of how much work they can accomplish in a garden), they can easilly be one of the most visually beautiful and enjoyable creatures in your garden. If you like seeing a multitude of these beauties in your garden, there are a few simple tricks you can do to secure a long term stay of summer butterflies around your yard. I’ve picked up a lot of little tricks while creating several “Backyard Habitats,” and this is the first tip I want to share with you!

Once mating season begins for the male butterflies, their life is one completely centered around finding mates, and perching to rest before looking for more mates! Male butterflies can scent an eligible female from a distance of up to one mile, and will expend most of their energy searching for and securing mates. While females generally mate once, males mate many times. In areas where males are few, they may exhaust themselves satisfying the local female population who become more aggressive in their need to reproduce, once they sense the lack of healthy partners. One of the keys to attracting pollinators (and butterflies in general) is plant selection. You want to build inviting areas for nectar drinking, perching, and hopefully egg laying. To create an area that attracts those busy male butterflies, provide an area that will meet the needs of the females, while creating a place that the male can relax and restock on the nutrients he is losing in the mating process.

The two most important steps to take for attracting male butterflies to your pollinator garden are this:

  1. Provide a separate water source that is protected from birds. Either a short bird bath, a ceramic dish, or a pot’s catch basin will suffice. A quiet water source for these busy creatures will become a basking location, and a place for a quick drink in between all the nectar sipping. Nectar does not meet most of the nutritional needs of butterflies, so males generally congregate around the edges of ponds and streams to drink and absorb the important minerals contained in the sand and soil, that they need to keep up their energy. You can provide this nutritional necessity for them in your yard, to complete your butterfly haven, and to secure long term visitation of the male.
  2. Provide a sandy spot, or an artificial stream bed in your yard for the males to absorb the minerals and nutrients lost in their exertions. Sand can be transported from a local stream to your yard, or it can be purchased cheaply at your local garden center. What I have done in the past is to buy a bag of sand, and to fill a large aluminum cookie tin with it. I place the cookie tin in the ground, with the lip of the tin, and the sand roughly at mulch, or dirt level. Male butterflies have never failed to approach these areas to rest, and revive after a hard days work. I have found also that an excellent side benefit to having an artificial stream bed, is an increased ability to photograph butterflies here, since they are finally holding still!


For a little lite reading on butterfliles, and their nutritional information, here’s a great resource I’ve found!

Your thoughts: Do you have any tried-and-true secrets to attract butterflies to your yard or patio? Do you have any favorite photographs of butterflies that you have taken in your garden or yard? If so, please send them my way! You can email me at greengardenista@gmail.com. I will post any pictures that I receive on a special “Garden Wildlife” feature coming soon to Green Gardenista!