[title subtitle=”words: Megan Lankford, Horticulture Supervisor, Botanical Garden of the Ozarks
Image: Erin Wilson, Unsplash”][/title]
When we garden for butterflies, we often do so only for the adults. We do a wonderful job of providing nectar and water, but we often forget one key part, host plants. Host plants are essential to the lifecycle of the butterfly, as the caterpillars of each species can only eat certain plants in order to grow. Amazingly, the female butterfly knows what plants to lay her eggs on by the leaf shape and color, as well as scent.
Host plants can be incorporated into your existing landscape, or if you have room you can create a butterfly garden. Many of us grow fennel, parsley, and dill, but they are also host plants for the Eastern Black and Anise Swallowtails. ‘Zebrina’ Malva sylvestris is a whimsical addition to the garden, providing nectar along with being a host plant for the Painted Lady. However, be careful as it can reseed throughout the garden. We all know the plight of the Monarchs, but which milkweed should you use? For most gardens I suggest Asclepias tuberosa. Not only is this a drought hardy native but it also grows only a few feet tall and displays gorgeous orange blooms in midsummer. Asclepias viridis is another small, native milkweed that fits well in any garden space. Its green flowers are subtly stunning. It is important to remember that the caterpillars will be eating your plants, thus there will be times that they aren’t very pretty. Keeping this in mind, you may not want to put them front and center.
HOST PLANTS FOR BUTTERFLIES: