Butterfly host plants are more than plants that butterflies like to drink nectar from. These are the plants that butterflies like to lay their eggs on. These are the plants that caterpillars feed off of while they’re growing, and may also provide a place for the caterpillars to make their cocoons.
Caterpillars are small and slow. They can’t travel very far in search of food, so butterflies generally only lay their eggs on plants where they know the caterpillars can survive. If they lay their eggs on the wrong type of plant, the caterpillars will probably not live.
You may be a bit disturbed at first to willingly allow “pests” to chomp on your garden plants. If you’re bothered by the sight of plants with holes in them, you might want to locate your host plants in a location that is a bit less visible.
Make sure you provide these host plants nearby the nectar-providing plants. If they are located too far away, you will probably end up with fewer butterflies in your garden. Now we’ll take a look at some of the most popular butterflies and which plants you’ll need to have as host plants if you wish to have the chance to have these particular butterflies in your garden.
Having these host plants doesn’t guarantee you’ll have any of these butterflies, but it certainly increases your odds!
Monarch butterflies are one of the most popular and well-known butterflies. If you don’t know what monarch butterflies are, they’re those medium-sized orange and black butterflies. They only lay their eggs on milkweed. And the monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. If you want monarch butterflies to visit your yard then you must have milkweed available and these little critters are super hungry so they need quite a few plants.
Milkweed can be grown from seed, but it does take a long time to germinate.
NOTE: These plants are poisonous so you don’t want them where children can get at them; don’t get the sap on your skin or in your eyes.
Find more instructions here. from Save Our Monarchs
Remember though that adult monarchs eat a much more varied diet: asters, bergamots, ageratum, daisies and even like fruit like watermelon, bananas, and oranges.
Black swallowtails are those giant yellow and black butterflies. I think everyone in the U.S. has probably seen these! They’re very large and noticeable. They lay their eggs on dill, carrots, parsley, and fennel. You’ll see these around a lot of herb and vegetable gardens.
European cabbage butterflies and white cabbage butterflies lay their eggs on cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. They enjoy plants from the mustard family including radishes, cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables in the cabbage and mustard families, often destroying their host plant.
If you don’t wish to encourage them in the cabbage patch in your food garden, you will need to place your food garden away from the nectar producing plants the white cabbage butterfly loves.
Eastern tiger swallowtails lay their eggs on sycamore and willow trees. If you have these trees in your yard, you’ve probably seen their fat, green caterpillars.
Painted lady butterflies are very popular. They are orange, black, and white, and look a bit like the monarch butterfly. Painted ladies lay their eggs on butterfly plant hosts, such as, thistle, hollyhock, and sunflower.
The spicebush swallowtail is a very interesting butterfly. Its caterpillars are quite scary looking, as they appear to have a large, frightening face! When larvae are in their early stages they are brown, turning to green in the last stage making them resemble common green snakes.
They lay their eggs on spice bushes and sassafras trees. If you want to have these crazy looking little critters in your lawn, be sure to plant some of these spicy trees!
The Monarch is a protected species as a result of habitat loss and needs our help to provide milkweed, the butterfly host plant it prefers. That’s a way we can make a difference.
Other butterflies are a beautiful addition to our gardens, allowing us the privilege of enjoying their peaceful beauty.
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