by Shan Wheeler
What is more beautiful than butterflies flitting from flower to flower? Soon the Orange Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, Swallowtails, Monarchs, Viceroys and more will be emerging or migrating back into Texas. When they do, they will need food and to seek their chosen plants on which to lay their eggs. Various “nectar” plants provide the butterfly sustenance. “Host” plants are more specific depending upon the butterfly. Eggs are laid on a specific host plant(s) that, when the eggs hatch, will immediately provide the tiny larval (caterpillar) with plenty of its favorite food while it grows through its stages into an adult butterfly (only 9 to 14 days!). These hosts range from flowering plants like Milkweed and Passion Vine, to herbs like Fennel, to bushes and even trees.
Plant the garden in a sunny location, give the butterflies an area of damp sand (even butterflies need water & salt), perhaps some rotting fruit and their favorite plants and they will thrive throughout their life cycle in your butterfly oasis!
Remember those caterpillars you used to smush because you caught them dining on your plants? Even the Tomato Horn worm, hated by tomato growers, morphs into the wonderful Butterfly Moth – therefore each worm is a potential beautiful creature, so if you decide to plant a butterfly garden, be prepared to sacrifice a few plants…it’s all in the planning.
BUTTERFLY NECTAR PLANTS HOST PLANTS
Sulphurs Aster, Clover, Verbena Wild Senna, Apple, Clover, False Indigo
Monarchs Milkweed, Buddleia Milkweed
Viceroys Goldenrod, Milkweed Willow, Fruit Trees
Ladies Aster, Zinnia, Mallow Daisy, Mallow/Hollyhock
Swallowtails Aster, Buddleia, Joe Pye Weed Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Passion Flower Vine