Landscaping your yard to attract butterflies is as simple as providing food, water and shelter for all stages of the butterfly life cycle. Adult butterflies feed on nectar while caterpillars and larvae eat the leaves of specific plants, their “host plants.” You can improve your chances of attracting butterflies to your garden by implementing a few principles into your landscape and planting shrubs and flowers butterflies love.
Butterflies are attracted to masses of colorful flowers in sunny locations and they need shady cool-down areas when it is hot for protection. Plant a variety of flowering annuals and perennials for mass color. Belize has a number of butterfly-friendly native plants that grow very easily. Some might be considered weeds they are so prevalent. But once you know the beneficial ones, you can keep them in your yard, pruning and taming them to fit your landscape.
One common plant countrywide is “Red Head” or “Firebush”, Hamelia patens. This plant grows everywhere land has been cleared. It can become gangly and unsightly if left to itself, but carefully pruned it is a beautiful landscape specimen providing flowers and fruit simultaneously. It responds well to pruning becoming thicker and lush. Learn to identify young plants growing in your yard and let them grow. Before you know it, you will have constantly flowering shrubs or small tree attracting birds and butterflies.
Passionflowers should be considered because they attract the Heliconai or Passionflower butterfly for laying eggs. There are at least 23 species of Passionflowers in Belize, most of which need a specific habitat to thrive. If you are lucky enough to find them growing as a vine in your yard, let them grow. You can build a simple trellis or structure to give it room to grow. Some species will reward you with gorgeous flowers and delicious fruit, and you’ll be encouraging more butterflies to visit your yard.
Other flowering plants to consider adding to your garden are Cosmos, Pentas, and Kalanchoes. Cosmos grow wild in some areas of Belize. They like extreme heat, poor soil and dry conditions and good drainage. They are annuals but will re-seed themselves in the right conditions. Kalanchoes bloom in the late fall and early winter. Flowers are long lasting and can be grown in the garden or in pots.
Another beautiful, constantly blooming plant is called Pentas, named for the small bright star-shaped groups of flowers. At a distance, the clusters appear to be one larger flower. Pentas come in red and pink and white. Once you have a healthy plant, they are easily spread. Bring in some cuttings to enjoy inside and after a few days, plant them, water and feed them, and before long you’ll have more to spread. Butterflies love mass plantings of colorful flowers and this is a great choice.
There are other things you can do in your backyard to encourage butterflies. Choose a spot for a shallow watering area. Butterflies get water and minerals from the moist soil around mud puddles often grouping together in what is called “Puddle clubs.” Examples of these spectacular displays with large numbers of butterflies seemingly drinking together can be found on muddy trails and back roads.
Use pesticides in your yard cautiously. Pesticides kill butterflies and caterpillars. Try using soap on aphids and other pests or completely removing infected plants.
Attract butterflies to a focal point from your house by placing over-ripe fruit, melons, papaya, mangoes, bananas, etc., on a tray or feeding station. Butterflies are not shy and will land at stations placed close to your windows.
If you are interested in finding out more about butterfly gardening, visit Green Hills Butterfly Ranch and Botanical Gardens. You will see most of these plants and more growing and they have the largest butterfly house in the country. You can find pho