Planting your own Butterfly Garden

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a state that is home to a huge variety of butterflies? Florida is home to over 180 species of butterflies. This means spring is the perfect time to plant your own butterfly garden! I’m not talking about a garden that will be labor-intensive or expensive (hey, that rhymes), but a small attempt to provide basic butterfly needs that will yield very therapeutic rewards. 

Our gardens can provide food for the larvae (caterpillars) and adult butterflies. Our baby butterflies can be very specific and particular on what plants they need to grow then transform into butterflies. Mature butterflies need sugar-rich flower nectar. We should use plants that are native to the region to make sure we’re providing the needs for our local butterflies. 

How to Attract Different Butterflies to your Garden

Here are a few butterflies we can attract to our garden and the host plants they need to thrive: 

  1. Queen Butterfly – Milkweed, Twinvine, Milkvine 
  2. Tiger Swallowtail – Sweet Bay Magnolia, Ash, Black Cherry 
  3. White Peacock – Water Hyssop, Turkey Tangle, Fog Fruit 
  4. Giant Swallowtail – Citrus 
  5. Orange Barred Sulphur – Cassia, Partridge Pea 
  6. Gulf Fritillary – Passion Vines 
  7. Zebra Longwing – Passion Vines 
  8. Polydamus Swallowtail – Pipe Vines 
  9. Cloudless Sulphur – Cassia, Partridge Pea 
  10. Monarch – Milkweed, Butterfly Weed 
  11. Black Swallowtail – Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Bishopweed 
  12. Pipevine Swallowtail – Pipe Vines 

How to Care for Butterflies in your Garden

Now we need to make sure we have enough food for our adult butterflies: 

Shrubs are a great way to add some height. The plants I love the most are button bush, fire bush and ink berry. Some great wildflowers are milkweed, Florida paint brush, blanket flower, sunflowers, blazing stars, horsemint, fog fruit, black-eyed Susan, sage and goldenrods. 

Make sure you choose a sunny location that you can enjoy inside your home and is convenient for you to take care of your new friends. Include lots of plants with nectar to attract more adult butterflies to your host plants. They will need space to lay their new eggs. You will need to plant several of these plants because once the eggs hatch the caterpillars are like teenagers – they eat up everything. Remember, NO PESTICIDES on or near the butterfly garden. 

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve helped our environment to become more sustainable. 

For more information, visit the University of Florida/Volusia County Extension Office website: 

Happy Growing, 

Shy Morris, Volusia County Master Gardener

Shy Morris, native to NSB for four generations, and a lover of all things positive. Her art has carried her around the world and her award winning STEAAM curriculum has inspired and empowered 1000s of youth in Volusia County. Shy loves everything community and loves to see kids thriving with high self esteem, great values and ready to be productive citizens.


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