My live butterfly garden was almost an accident – it was never intended to be a butterfly garden at all, it was simply a narrow strip beside the driveway where I built a rock retaining wall to grow my stock plants in.
The plants that I grow in my Sedum and succulent nursery are - no surprise here - Sedum - perfect for the butterfly garden. I have over 40 different kinds of stonecrops, many low growing, some taller border types, all hardy to Zone 4 USDA zone map, which is Zone 5a on the Canadian Zone map.
These hardy succulents love hot sun, dry well drained soil, and good snow cover in the winter, but no winter wet. If you live in a wet climate, good drainage is essential.
Plants that attract butterflies generally are good plants for bees too – imagine my delight at the sheer numbers of wild bees, of many kinds, ranging from tiny blue green metallic ones to giant furry bumble bees.
Sometimes on warm evenings, they camp out in the garden instead of taking their nectar back to the hive.
They seem partial to the pink coloured blooms, but they are drawn too by the white flowered Sedum spurium album ‘Superbum’ which actually starts to bloom earlier.
By the first week in August, it’s reaching its crescendo – over 200 bees at any one time, and more than 30 butterflies – Swallowtails, singly or in a pair, many Great Spangled Fritillaries and their imitators, the Zerene Fritillary, tiny Skippers, dark eyed Wood Satyrs, the occasional Pine White and many others.
The whole butterfly garden is alive with activity; bees and butterflies intent on their own business, cheek by jowl with the other.
I spend a few minutes several times a day checking on the flurry of motion, seeing which particular Sedum is attracting the most attention. Luckily, the blooms open in sequence, providing valuable butterfly food - nectar and pollen - over a long period for these sipping insects.
Other plants that attract butterflies that you may want to grow in your live butterfly garden are:
Planting some of these valuable butterfly attracting plants as butterfly food in your xeric garden is a no-brainer – they are beautiful plants in their own right, with the added benefit of attracting a butterfly exhibition to your very own live butterfly garden. Inviting caterpillars into your garden ensures that you have more generations of adult butterflies to give you pleasure and enjoyment.
Wanting to identify your butterflies? See the Insect Encyclopedia.
Check out some of these gorgeous butterflies in my xeric garden:
Hover your mouse over the photos to get a better view
They're useful too, and they deserve more of our respect - after all, they do a good job of pollinating, scavenging, cleaning up the dead, and preying on overpopulated pest insects.
Planting a nectar corridor or butterfly garden will attract many insects - butterflies, bees and other pollinators will flock to the colourful blooms for the nectar, and other plants will be used as butterfly food by many species.
Make sure when you plan your xeric garden, you leave some room for these incredibly helpful, and fascinating creatures, the insects, and the many spiders that use them as a food source.