Tips for Creating a Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden

Butterfly and hummingbird gardening is the art of growing flowers and plants that will attract these colorful and dainty creatures to your garden.

With just a little bit of planning, you can have beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds flocking to your garden. The winged creatures are fun to watch and are essential pollinators.

Here are tips to follow to assure your efforts in the garden are providing the creatures with the sustenance that they need to flourish and survive.

Tip One: Find Out What Species Are in Your Area

Before you even begin your butterfly and hummingbird garden, find out which species are in your area. Consider taking an exploratory hike around your location with a butterfly and hummingbird identification book.

You can also check information at the local library.

This may take a little extra time and effort, but the results will be worth it. After you have compiled your list of local species, be sure to write down in your garden plan what these particular species like for nectar and food plants.

Tip Two: Provide the Right Plants They Love

Hummingbirds are attracted to bright orange, red and hot pink blossoms.

Their long, narrow beaks can reach the nectar of long, tubular flowers such as the trumpet vine with its large scarlet blossoms, and the honeysuckle, which has vibrant yellow and red flowers.

Hummingbird hovering near a red flower to get nectar.

Not all hummingbirds feed at the same height, so plant an array of shrub sizes and climbing vines for food sources.

Butterflies are attracted to yellow, orange, and red.

Brightly colored flowers attract butterflies in droves. They too are seeking nectar, but their mouths, or proboscises, are much smaller, so they prefer flatter flowers they can perch on while they feed.

The no-fail plant for butterflies is the butterfly bush, or buddleja. However, since the bush can get too large for some gardens, consider the petite series of dwarf butterfly bushes.

Lilacs are favorites of butterflies, but don't typically flower well in climates with warmer winters. Butterflies also love coneflowers. Asters are great because they bloom well into fall.

Other plants butterflies love include: Joe-Pye weed, black-eyed Susans, lantana, butterfly weed, liatris, pentas, coreopsis, and marigold.

Tip Three: Supply Water

To keep the butterflies and hummingbirds well hydrated, supply water. Hummingbirds enjoy flying through a fine water mist, which cools them off.

Butterflies like drinking from shallow puddles. Soak the ground in an area next to favorite plants or place small dishes or birdbaths with water in the garden.

A birdbath will look attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from stray cats or mischievous puppies. A shallow dish on a post or hung in a tree will do just as well.

Many gardens these days add water features that keep the water moving, as these are best for avoiding mosquito infestations.

If you have a small pond, lay a stick on the edge so one end is in the water and one end on the shore. This will provide an easy entranceway for both butterflies and frogs.

Position some large flat rocks in a sunny spot, on which butterflies can sun themselves to warm their wings.

Tip Four: Provide Sunlight

Be sure that your garden is in a location that provides at least six hours of sunlight per day. Butterflies adore worshipping the sun. They are cold-blooded creatures and therefore do better where they are warm and sheltered.

This means that shady types of gardens aren't best suited for attracting them and won't keep them long if it happens to do so.

Tip Five: Provide Food for the Caterpillars

In order to get those gorgeous butterflies, we need to feed the caterpillars that hatch out to be butterflies. Plant specific plants that these immature insects require and let them chew them up. You have to have food in your garden for all phases of this creature if you want to attract them.

Caterpillar eating a flower

The trick is to plant the following plants at the back of the garden so you won't see the damage. Plant wild asters, clover, hollyhocks, lupines, mallows, marigolds, milkweed, nettles and thistles, parsley, passionflower, plantain, snapdragons, sorrel, turtlehead, and violets.

Tip Six: Provide Wind Protection

Wind can be a butterfly’s and hummingbird’s worst enemy so be sure to have plenty of wind protection in your design. You can plant tall shrubs and other plants in order to create a wind break. But a location that avoids heavy winds is even better.

Try and locate your garden close to a window so you can view the butterflies and hummingbirds from indoors. Provide seating outside too.

You could excavate an area and build a stone wall around it. This would create the ideal windbreak.

Create gravel pathways around your garden so you won’t have to walk in mud.

Tip Seven: Provide Flowers with Nectar

Nectar is the essential food for butterflies and hummingbirds. They are attracted to those flowers that have nectar rather than pollen. Flowers like honeysuckle, milkweed, summer lilac, valerian, daisies, purple coneflower, yellow sage, day lilies, and lavender are great choices to plant.

When you select nectar-rich plants for your garden, look for varieties that are both prolific bloomers and have a long bloom time.

The greater the selection of nectar-producing flowers, the greater the number of butterflies and hummingbirds your garden will attract.

Prune your plants to prevent excessive woody growth and to encourage the growth of new flowers.

Tip Eight: Place Fruit in Your Garden

Place several pieces of ripe fruit in your garden. This is another treat for butterflies to enjoy and will attract many that may be in the area.

Tip Nine: Avoid Pesticides

You should avoid using pesticides in a flower garden built to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It wouldn't make sense to attract them to your garden only to harm them through the nourishment they receive while paying your garden a visit.

Employ organic gardening methods in your garden for the best results.

Follow these simple tips to create the best butterfly and hummingbird garden your neighborhood has ever seen.

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