NDSU Extension - Williams County


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Butterfly Gardening- April 15, 2016

Butterfly Gardening

Last week I had talked about Square Foot Gardening, which is a big trend right now. But there is another type of gardening that is very beneficial to butterflies; butterfly gardens. North Dakota State University Extension Service has a publication called Butterfly Gardening in North Dakota, written by Janet Knodel, Gerald Fauske and Ronald Smith. This is a great resource for those that want to start a butterfly garden in their yard, if you would like this publication please call the office at 701-577-4595.

Many people create butterfly gardens for an aesthetic value, but they can help create stronger butterfly populations in our area. Butterfly gardens are a simple and easy way to improve the quality of life for a person or a community. Simply put, a butterfly garden is a flower garden designed to attract and retain butterflies. To have a successful butterfly garden, you must have nectar sources and host food plants. These gardens should contain a variety of flowers that will bloom throughout the season. The greater variety of color, plants and sizes, the greater variety of butterflies you will see in your garden. The first thing when designing a butterfly garden is location, a sheltered but sunny location. The second thing is to create a habitat which the butterflies will be attracted. Having a sunny, south-facing garden will attract more butterflies, which will cause their eggs to hatch and develop sooner. When planting a butterfly garden, select a spot that is protected from the west to northwest winds we normally have here in North Dakota. Using existing bushes, gazebos or trellises are a great resource. Having a perch, such as sun dials or garden ornaments located in the garden gives the butterflies a resting area they need to bask in the sun. As butterflies need to warm their bodies up to 85-100 degrees so they can fly easier. The last thing about location is having an area that provides a water source; mud puddles or wet sandy soils provide the water and necessary salts and minerals that the butterflies need. The third thing to consider when creating a butterfly garden is that these gardens may also attract bees and wasps, as they are also are nectar feeders. They will often nest in the vicinity of your butterfly garden, so removing them from houses and buildings is encouraged for human safety. Also, remember that butterflies are insects, so insecticides should NOT be used on your gardens. Bacterial insecticides will also kill the caterpillar of butterflies.

Here are some flowers and plants to consider when building a butterfly garden; early lowering: Lilac, Dogwood, Spirea, Fleabane, and Dandelion. Mid-season flowering; Phlox, Bee balm, Sunflowers, Purple coneflower, Milkweed, Alfalfa, Vervain and Marigold. Late flowering options; Blazingstar, Rabbitbrush, Zinnia and Aster.


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