A banquet for butterflies

Life is a garden of sunshine and bright colours that encourages visit from butterflies.

Lantana montevidensis

As well as providing plants for nectar, butterflies need shelter from strong winds, sun to warm their wings for flight, flat stones where they can sun themselves, some weathered rocks with shallow holes that hold water, and some mud puddles. This section could be situated on the perimeter of the garden where it is also likely to attract birds, frogs, insects and lizards, thus providing a balanced ecosystem.

This is a garden where no insecticides or herbicides are used, so it will not have perfect plants, as some plants are specific hosts for butterfly children (larvae and caterpillars) to feed on. But the pleasure of watching the life cycle from egg, larva, pupa to adult will more than make up for any damaged leaves.

Butterflies are attracted to red, orange, pink and purple flowers, as well as white. Clusters of flowers are easier for butterflies to locate than individual plants, and by growing a mixture of annuals, perennials and shrubs of varying heights you will be encouraging a greater range of butterflies. Seed companies have made it easy for the gardener by producing packets of mixed seed especially formulated for a butterfly garden.

Nectar and larvae plants

Pentas lanceolata 'Lucky Look Mix'

Lobelia

Different species of butterflies have different preferences of nectar, in both colour and taste. Some butterflies have a long proboscis (tongue) to suck up the nectar from long spurred flowers like agapanthus, while others with much shorter proboscis will visit flowers like scabiousa. Butterflies and other nectar loving insects are attracted to the mauve flowers of the butterfly bush (Buddleja salviifolia) that appear on this shrub or small tree in winter and spring, and lay their eggs on the leaves that are a food source for the larvae.

Pentas lanceolata is a favourite butterfly shrub that produces red, pink, mauve and white clusters of flowers in spring and summer. Freylinia tropica with tiny blue flowers nearly all year, and Freylinia lanceolata (honeybells) with creamy-yellow flowers, will also attract butterflies to your garden. Bougainvilleas attract large butterflies like swallowtails, while low growing annuals alyssum, marigold, lobelia and verbena are irresistible to smaller butterflies.

There are specific plants that caterpillars feed on, such as buddleja and the creeping foxglove (Asystasia gangetica) with heart-shaped leaves that bear trumpet-like white flowers with purple spots in summer. Pride-of-De-Kaap (Bauhinia galpinii) is the host plant of the Foxy Charaxes butterfly, which lays its eggs on the underside of the leaves.

Bougainvillea

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