Watching butterflies as they float from flower to flower is a good excuse to put down you hoe and leave the weeds for a while. Not that you should need an excuse to stand and stare at the flowers and wildlife in your garden. That is all part of the pleasure of gardening. So to enjoy the butterflies it makes sense to grow plants that will attract them into your garden. For Faith Peterson planting natives is the answer as she explains in her article which I found on The Master Gardeners website.
The butterflies and moths that we see each day in summer are practically all native insects. That means that they have evolved, along with the plants that feed them, over centuries. You can help butterflies and moths by providing a suitable habitat of native plants in your yard that will allow them to grow and thrive.
A good butterfly habitat is ideally filled with native trees, shrubs and flowers. The nectar plants should be placed in a wind free sunny area, with a few rocks, from which butterflies absorb heat. Butterflies like mud puddles, and need a shallow water source. They also like rotted fruit, which should be placed in a shady area.
Here is a list of common butterflies in our area and the host plants they need: the Monarch host plant is the milkweed family; for the Spicebush Swallowtail, it is spicebush and sassafras tree; Eastern Black Swallowtail larvae eat parsley, tulip tree, fennel and wild cherry; for the Viceroy it?s poplar, willow, cherry and apple; while the Baltimore Checkerspot loves turtlehead and white ash trees. If you are planning to add a tree to your yard, consider one of these. Always look up mature height, branch spread and water and sun needs of a tree before planting.
Here are some flower suggestions: bee balm, Black eyed Susan, hyssop, Joe-Pye weed, purple coneflower, liatris, most herb plants, all the milkweeds, violets, zinnia and Mexican sunflower. The Mexican sunflower will grow to 5 ?tall and 3 to 4? wide. Some flowers to attract night flying moths include Nicotiana, Angel trumpet and moon flower.
See more at The Master Gardeners