08 Nov 2015

Backyard into a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies bring magic and beauty to any garden. Their sheer living presence amongst the flowers brings an added touch of whimsy and magic to all backyards.

Creating your own butterfly gardens means you not only get to enjoy watching butterflies prance and frolic outside your window, but also help them by creating a safe habitat.

Butterflies bring magic and beauty to any garden. Their sheer living presence amongst the flowers brings an added touch of whimsy and magic to all backyards.

Creating your own butterfly gardens means you not only get to enjoy watching butterflies prance and frolic outside your window, but also help them by creating a safe habitat. Many of the natural habitats that used to be brimming with butterflies have been lost to human activities such as roads, farming, and housing.

The key to attracting these delicate creatures is to grow and nurture plants that caterpillars like to eat, as well as plants that adult butterflies enjoy and will lay their eggs on. If you have plants that butterflies can lay their eggs on (referred to as host plants), you’ll find that adult butterflies will spend far more time in your garden. It’s also important from a conservation standpoint, however, to also include flowers and plants that caterpillars like to feed on too.

THE LIFE CYCLE OF A BUTTERFLY

Butterflies have several life stages, beginning as an egg then larva, which transforms into a caterpillar, followed by the chrysalis/pupa phase, and eventually emerging as a spectacular butterfly.

For each stage of this life cycle, butterflies prefer certain flowers to feed on and also require a certain habitat. For example, the caterpillar lives and feeds on a different plant than the one that the butterfly will use to collect its nectar. And when the caterpillar is ready for the next stage in its life cycle it will need a secure and sheltered place to form a chrysalis.

A GARDEN OF ANY SIZE

Your butterfly garden can be as petite or as expansive as you want. If you’re limited with space, a planter box butterfly garden can make a beautiful addition to your outside living area or backyard. If you have a larger area to work with, you could incorporate plants and flowers that butterflies love right throughout your front and backyard.

CATERPILLARS BRING VISITORS

If you want to attract caterpillars by creating a garden where they can feed and thrive, you’ll also attract other animals and birds. This is wonderful for biodiversity and will really bring your garden to life.

KNOWING WHICH BUTTERFLIES ARE NATIVE TO YOUR AREA

The first step with planning your butterfly garden is to learn about the different butterflies that are native to your region. You can then begin to do further research on the plants and flowers that these butterflies enjoy eating and laying their eggs on. From there, you can decide on which are best suited to your outdoor space and begin to plan your butterfly oasis! You can do this by researching online or visiting your local nursery.

In South-West Australia there are more than 60 native butterfly species. On top of this, there are a few introduced species such as the cabbage white, orange palmdart, and monarch.

Most of the butterflies found in this region have only one life cycle in a year, and the adult butterfly will emerge in the spring or early in the summer months.

SOURCING THE RIGHT PLANTS AND FLOWERS

Some of the native plants and flowers might not be available in nurseries, but you can source them from APACE, a non-profit organisation.

If you live in Perth or South-West Australia, the Coojong (Acacia saligna) and Green stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana) are both great for butterflies. Many of the species that breed on them include the:

  • Amethyst hairstreak,
  • Varied hairstreak,
  • Fiery jewel,
  • Two-spotted
  • Line-blue, and
  • Wattle blue.

The Green stinkwood also supports the fringed heath-blue, western jewel, and long-tailed pea-blue butterflies.

Nectar plants are also important to add to your butterfly garden. Some nectar plants you may want to add to your garden plan include daisies such as the Western Australian waitzia (Waitzia sp.), Western Australian Golden Wattle (Acacia saligna), Red-eyed Wattle (Acacia cyclops), Grevillea crithmifolia, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia sp.), and Pimelea ferruginea.

In most cases, butterflies prefer plants and flowers native to that region, so naturally you’ll also find that these plants are easy to grow as they are best suited to your area.

In and around the entire South-West region of Australia there are so many beautiful species of butterflies you can attract to your garden. Apart from the species we’ve already mentioned, a few more include:

  • Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi),
  • Wedge Grass Skipper (Anisynta sphenosema),
  • White-banded Grass-dart (Taractrocera papyria papyria), and
  • Spotted Jezebel (Delias aganippe).

MORE IMPORTANT ADVICE FOR YOUR BUTTERFLY GARDEN

  • Don’t use chemicals

Using chemicals and non-organic fertilisers in and around your garden can actually harm the butterflies, and even poison other animals that may visit. In general, if your garden does encounter a pest outbreak, it is due to an ecological imbalance. This can be caused by exterminating a natural predator or pest by actually using pesticides in the first place.

  • Sunny and warm

Butterflies and caterpillars need warmth to keep active, so they thrive in gardens that receive full sun. For when the weather does turn windy or it rains, it’s a good idea to include some evergreen and/or flowering shrubs so that the butterflies and caterpillars have a place to shelter.

  • Don’t order seeds online

If you come across a website that sells seeds to attract butterflies, do not order them. These plants are most likely not suitable for native Australian butterflies to breed on and they also have the potential for becoming a serious weed.

If you follow all of the above advice you should find that creating a garden to attract butterflies is enjoyable and relatively easy too. Plus, by helping native butterflies by creating a safe habitat for them to feed and thrive you’ll be able to enjoy mornings and afternoons spent watching the butterflies dance among your flowers and plants.