Container Gardens for Butterflies

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Butterfly gardens aren’t just for those with a meadow’s-worth of growing space. There are plenty of plants suited to container growing that will attract and feed butterflies and their larvae. By growing a mix of these plants in a group of containers, or even a single plant in a pot, you can please the eyes and the butterflies. Butterflies are seeking nectar for themselves, a place to lay eggs – and food for the eventual caterpillars from those eggs. They don’t need plants to be in the ground, just alive and healthy, even if they’re on your deck or doorstep.

Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle, Danaus plexippus


As with any mixed container plantings, be sure to group plants together that have similar moisture and sunlight needs. A light weight potting soil will keep pots easy to move if needed. Be sure to use container with drainage holes and a saucer beneath. Planting a mix of colors, textures, heights and growth habits (upright, trailing and mounding) will give your combinations the most visual appeal. You can also stick with one variety per pot and just create an arrangement of multiple pots. You may want to blend “caterpillar” plants into a screen of other plants – to shield eggs and chrysalises, and to lessen the view of tattered leaves from the feeding stage as caterpillars.

Planting Container Butterfly Garden, Painted Lady Butterfly on Yellow Calendula


Watering is the same as for any container plantings; keep the soil evenly moist and check moisture daily, as containers dry out faster than gardens, especially if conditions are windy or hot. Removal of past-prime flowers is fine. Regular fertilizing with a liquid plant food, or applications of a slow release feed at the beginning and middle of the season, will keep the plants healthy. You will want to avoid the use of any pesticides to keep things safe for the butterflies.

We’d love to see pictures of butterflies that visit your flowers. Share them with us on Facebook!

Tiger Swallowtail on Penta


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