All text and pictures below come from Georgia Tasker's Book, Butterfly Gardening In South Florida. Purchase the book online or at The Shop at Fairchild.
A butterfly garden is simply a gentle place with the kinds of plants butterflies love. It can be a park, a natural area or a home garden. It can even be plants grown in containers on your patio. Large or small, a butterfly garden is a place of wonder where you can watch the graceful and ephemeral dances of butterflies.
Take a few moments to envision what your butterfly garden should contain. When doing so, think about what butterflies do during the day: search for food, shelter, water and mates. You will need to create a garden that meets these needs.
Because butterflies are picky about their larval food plants, you must find the plants they will utilize in order to keep them in your garden. For example, Gulf Fritillaries use passion vines. So do Zebra Heliconian (Zebra Longwing) butterflies. Monarch butterflies select milkweeds, while atala butterflies choose the little cycad called coontie.
1. Observe and identify butterflies in your neighborhood.
2. Discover the nectar and larval food plants they need to thrive.
3. Plant nectar-producing flowering plants to bring butterflies to your yard.
4. Plant larval food plants to keep them there.
“Observing butterfly and caterpillar behavior can provide hours of discovery and amazement,’’ says Linda Evans, honorary curator of Fairchild’s Lisa D. Anness Butterfly Garden.
Among the most astounding of nature’s many incredible feats is the transformation of a caterpillar into the beautiful insect we call a butterfly. This transformation, called complete metamorphosis, occurs in stages, with the caterpillar molting several times to emerge as an adult butterfly. During the last stage of metamorphosis, inside a protective covering called a chrysalis, a chewing mouth becomes a drinking tube; a set of short legs becomes five-segmented long legs; and a caterpillar grows wings covered with scales. To grow a butterfly garden is to become enchanted and entranced by this marvelous event.