How to begin a butterfly-friendly garden/meadow

    by Tianna G. Hansen

    Last year, my mom had her meadow certified as a Monarch Habitat.

    It’s something anyone who loves the joy of butterflies and wildlife brought to their garden can do – adorn your yard with the bright colors of butterfly-attracting plants and flowers, offer a water source and enjoy!

    Butterflies love to bask in the sun on chillier days to help warm their wings. If you have a small pond, place some rocks along the edges or consider adding a small rock garden to your landscape.

    It’s important to have some sort of water feature so butterflies can drink, as well as soak in minerals and salts from damp ground spots. (A simple hack: bury a garbage can lid with a hole in the bottom filled with mud and topped with sand and pebbles).

    Nectar is often in short supply in early spring and again in the fall – including plants that bloom during these times will ensure butterflies have the resources and nutrition they need. Wild strawberries and Geraniums bloom in spring, while Aster and Ironweed bloom in fall. Butterfly Milkweed is an important plant to host butterfly larvae.

    Garden for Wildlife™ recommends, “If you have a lawn, consider making it smaller with wildflowers, shrubs, trees and other native plants; you’ll be creating habitats for declining wildlife, but also helping to reduce urban heat islands and manage storm water runoff.”

    Making a meadow of native grasses and nectar plants (like my mom did) is beneficial for both you and the butterflies!

    Avoid pesticides – even though you may be annoyed to find ‘worms’ and caterpillars munching on your parsley plants, they are the larvae of Eastern Black Swallowtails. I hatched one myself in 2020 after bringing him inside to watch the process of cocooning and hatching – a magical experience (and a cool nature experiment if you have kids who’d love to learn).

    Butterflies often seek protection against strong winds, so adding some shrubs to the background of your garden or meadow can offer some needed shelter. Shrubs with nectar are even better!

    Reach out to a local Audubon Society or wildlife specialist if you are seeking further instructions and remember: the impact you’ll have reaches far beyond your yard.


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