Butterfly Gardens Part 1: Host Plants!
What are butterfly host plants? These plants are essentially caterpillar food. Each species of butterfly is pretty specific about the plants they’ll eat at the caterpillar stage. Butterflies will lay their eggs on plants that the newly hatched larvae will eat until they move onto the pupae stage. Hence, if you want to attract certain types of butterflies to your garden, and especially if you’re interested in seeing the egg-caterpillar-pupae-butterfly cycle, it’s important to do a little research.
The monarch lays its eggs on milkweed. An easy way to remember this, is to note the bright orange blooms of the milkweed as the monarch has similar fiery orange coloring. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a shorter version of the common variety. As opposed to growing 3-4 feet tall, it grows only 18-24 inches.
Planting a spice bush is an easy way to attract spice bush swallowtails. The spice bush is a deciduous shrub which can grow as high as 6-10 feet! Hence, whether you’re looking for a small plant for the front of your herbaceous border (butterfly milkweed) or a larger plant to fill a vacant space in your yard with foliage and butterflies (spice bush), there are lots of options when it comes to choosing your butterfly plants!
By Kristina Borrman, Katzenberger Art History Intern