Bring on the butterflies

Phantom Screens / May 31, 2016

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One of the many benefits of a backyard garden is the presence of beautiful butterflies. Watching their multi-colored wings as they flutter around your home is a joy to behold. Many think that to attract butterflies to their gardens all they have to do is plant a butterfly bush. The truth is, there are many other native plant species that are much better at attracting a whole variety of useful insects. Bees may seem like unwanted pests, but in reality, they are the gardener’s best friend. Their flights from flower to flower, pollinating the plants promotes a healthy garden. In addition, many of the same plants that attract bees and butterflies also attract hummingbirds. These tiny birds eat the nectar from plants and are a delight to watch flit around the yard.

Preparing your outdoor living spaces

Having a garden that is teeming with life is very good for the environment. All too often housing developments have destructive effects on the local ecosystem. By planting a garden with native plant species you are helping to reinstitute the natural balance of wildlife in your area. In order to prepare for the new visitors you are likely to introduce into your yard, it is a good idea to install retractable screens. This will protect the large openings of any of the covered outdoor spaces that may be in your backyard. It will also help with insect control while still allowing for natural ventilation of the space. Much of the insect control will be taken care of by natural forces like the food chain but it is still a good idea to have some screens to protect those outdoor living spaces you don’t want to let bugs into.

The best plants

As was mentioned before, the butterfly bush is not as effective at attracting butterflies as its name would suggest. In addition, it is an invasive, non-native plant species that will further disrupt the area’s ecosystem rather than help restore it. Here is a list of native species that are guaranteed to attract a host of beneficial insects and even hummingbirds:

  • The black-eyed Susan: A vibrant yellow flower that is fairly tolerant of dry conditions and is a great attractor of butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Blazing star: A flowering plant of the Liatris family, these purple beauties are a favorite of monarch butterflies. In order to attract a large population of the orange beauties plant some milkweed nearby. This plant is a host of monarchs, a plant on which the butterflies raise their young. With a combination of milkweed and blazing star, you will have the monarchs coming back year after year.
  • Crossvine: The vibrant blooms of this climber are especially appealing to hummingbirds. Plant it near a trellis or wall and watch it explode with blooms.
  • Mountain mint: This plant does double-duty providing valuable insects with food and shelter. The leaves are also good for humans as they can be steeped in hot water for a delicious tea.
  • Cleveland sage: A great option for gardens in Southern California, this native plant is highly valued for its scent. It also makes a great hummingbird and butterfly magnet.

Don’t forget the water

Birds aren’t the only ones that appreciate a nice water feature in the garden – butterflies need to drink too! However, while birds are likely to be seen lapping up the still water in a birdbath, butterflies are more adapted to extracting small amounts of water from mud. Including a water feature that splashes a lot of water around, such as a fountain, will deposit small droplets of water that butterflies can suck up.