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Monarch Butterfly

6 Plants to Set Your Garden Aflutter

Fun, easy ways to attract butterflies to your garden

Butterfly gardens add interest and color to any Hillsborough County landscape.

With spring's arrival, there's no better time to make your yard, or neighborhood, an oasis for these appealing creatures. Many Florida-Friendly plants attract the insects, and they're easy to grow.

Flowering plants draw butterflies with nectar. Other "host" plants, such as native milkweed, have leaves that provide food for their caterpillars. Plants also provide shelter, resting spots, and protection from intense weather and predators.

Strawberries
Monarch catepillar.

It's important to provide water. Most bird baths are too deep for butterflies, and a dish of water dries quickly. Try filling a shallow dish with sand and water, moist sponges, or even pieces of fruit.

Here are a few plants you might consider adding to your landscape to attract butterflies:

  • Firebush: A hearty Florida native with tubular red flowers from late spring until early winter. Monarch and zebra longwing butterflies love it.

  • Blue porterweed: A host plant for some butterflies, this evergreen groundcover also attracts insect pollinators with its bright-blue flowers.

  • Beach sunflower: Another favorite of many butterflies, this showy, drought-resistant groundcover blooms throughout the year.

  • Pentas: An upright perennial with star-shaped flowers that are extremely popular with butterflies.

  • Native milkweed: The many varieties are known for attracting butterflies and bees. It's a larval host to monarch and queen butterflies.

  • Passionflower: Some butterfly gardeners plant two vines. In sunny areas, they lure gulf fritillary butterflies. In shade, they invite zebra longwings.

These plants, and others that butterflies favor, are available at local nurseries and garden centers.

Florida has more than 180 species of butterflies, and some of them are found nowhere else. Butterflies commonly seen in Hillsborough County include monarchs, zebra long wings, and varieties of sulphurs.

Strawberries
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

Download free butterfly brochures from the Florida Museum of Natural History.

To ensure your garden attracts different species, place plants in both direct sunlight and shade, and select ones with flowers of varying colors and shapes. Learn to recognize not only adult butterflies, but also the other stages of their life cycles: eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises.

Don't spray pesticides on your butterfly garden. Pesticides and habitat destruction are largely to blame for a dramatic decline in the prevalence of monarch butterflies and other pollinators, such as bees.

Target problem leaves or other small areas directly. Remove the affected part of a plant, or treat the vegetation with soaps, oils, or other less-toxic substances intended to control pests.

Then, enjoy your fluttering visitors.

Photo Information: Monarch Butterfly.

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