Butterfly and Bee Garden

Butterfly Bee Garden

Butterfly-Friendly Plants for Containers

Your Guide to Butterfly Container Gardening

If you live in an apartment, but you’ve always dreamed of having a butterfly garden there is a solution. Butterfly container gardening on a small deck or patio is a viable option, if you plant the right plants. The key thing to remember is that butterflies are searching for food (nectar) and host plants where they can lay their eggs.

If you can meet these two basic needs in the limited available space, you’re all set. The butterfly potted plants that you choose need to be nectar-rich and be host plants that provide plenty of nutrition for emerging caterpillars.


Choosing Butterfly-Friendly Plants for Containers


Butterfly Container Gardening

Butterfly container gardening is fascinating, but it needs to meet the basic requirements of an apartment garden to be aesthetically pleasing and a place to relax. This is simple because adding plenty of variety is important to meet both criteria. People and butterflies like flowering plants with bright colors, varying heights and a mix of perennials and annuals to make the garden attractive throughout the spring and summer.


When you keep the plants at different heights, you will notice that a wider variety of butterflies will be interested in the garden. Certain species prefer to feed and lay their eggs at different heights. Using mounding and trailing plants is also an important way to add some variety to a garden that has upright plants.

If there is a single shrub or tree in the pot, you could add some verbena or trailing lantana at the edges for the butterflies. Grouping several plants and different heights in the same pot also works well for this purpose.


One of the more popular plants for butterflies is the purple coneflower because they are tall and straight. But, adding some trailing petunias or verbena at the base of the container can attract different species to the garden. Many people think that the shape or color of the flower is the main attraction for butterflies.


This is partially true, but the biggest draw is the nectar and flowers that are rich in nectar are more attractive. Some of the more attractive flowering plants include coneflower, yarrow, mums and butterfly weed. It’s also true that bell-shaped flowers are always an attractive prospect for butterflies.


Designing and Setting Up a Butterfly Container Garden


Container Garden for patio

The first step is to set up the butterfly garden and use a large container that has holes in the bottom for draining. If your container lacks drainage, you will have floating dead plants after a thunderstorm. A lack of adequate drainage is the primary cause of container garden failure.


Seasoned garden designers use a simple axiom for success, “One spiller, one thriller and one filler”. The spiller will be a trailing plant, the thriller is a blooming plant to wow the viewer and a filler is a bushy plant to add texture and interest.


The nature of butterfly container gardening is that the planting is intensive and frequent watering and fertilization is essential. Adding slow-release fertilizer to the soil during planting is the best way to keep the plants in bloom throughout the summer.


Grooming and deadheading will be required to keep the plants attractive and healthy. Bloomers can be sheared back if they are leggy and/or tired looking to get more late season blossoms.


Attracting Butterflies to the Container Garden


All butterflies are happiest in the sun, so you need to make sure that the butterfly container garden is located in a spot that gets six hours of sunshine every day. But, butterflies don’t like the wind, so the garden needs to be sheltered too. Adding a light colored flat stone surface is a great way to give them a place to relax in the sunshine.


Butterflies also need a water source; add a plant saucer filled with moist sand in the plants. The sand prevents the water from evaporating and it gives them a surface to safely land on as they drink.


Bright Flowers in Pot

Different butterfly species prefer to feed on plants and different heights. To maximize the attraction to a wider range of butterfly species, you need variety. A single large container filled with only tall vertical plants will be less successful than a mix of short, tall and trailing plants.


If you’ve ever observed butterflies on mud or sand, you may see them nibbling and this behaviour is known as “puddling”. This is how the butterfly extracts key minerals from the soil and you can create a special location for this in your garden.


A shallow pan or saucer filled with coarse moist sand with a ½ or ¾ cup of rock salt or table salt to each gallon of sand is ideal. Make sure this is mixed well and ensure that the sand is kept wet or moist most of the time.


Butterfly Container Gardening for Conservation



A butterfly can add much more to a garden than some beauty and color. There are three clear benefits when you attract these fascinating creatures into your garden:


1.    Pollination


Butterflies are excellent pollinators, they feed on nectar in bright flowers and transfer pollen to other plants. This is a great way to promote the production of new seeds in flowering plants, vegetables and fruit bearing plants. Most plants need butterflies, bees and other pollinators to reproduce.


2.    A Healthier Environment


Butterfly potted plants will also encourage birds and bees to visit the space. This is good news for the environment and it can encourage biodiversity in microorganisms, plants and animal life. But. butterflies are pretty low on the food chain and they are prey for birds, mice, lizards and other predators.


This is equally true for caterpillars which are easy targets for birds, bats and others. The impact of habitat loss and predation on butterflies can have drastic consequences for the entire ecosystem. So, if you want to make a safer space for your butterfly visitors, you may want to add bird scarers or other deterrants to your container garden.


3.    Increasing Happiness


Spending time in nature is a proven way to improve our mental health and well being. Even the addition of a container garden can have a dramatic effect on your mood. This is especially true when you get butterfly visitors that you can observe up close.


Overcoming Challenges and Troubleshooting- When Butterfly container gardening


To recap, there are ten challenges to overcome if you want to establish a successful butterfly container garden. They are:


Butterfly Garden in Old Bath

  1. Always use containers with drainage holes.
  2. Don’t use smaller containers that cannot store sufficient water for hotter days.
  3. Larger containers can insulate the roots better than smaller variants.
  4. A clay pot may be more attractive, but it will retain less moisture than a plastic container.
  5. If you want a more attractive container, place a plastic model inside a clay pot container.
  6. Using a lightweight plastic, fiberglass of foam composite container will make it easier to move.
  7. Add soil-free potting mix to supply more nutrients and oxygen to the roots.
  8. Make sure that the container is positioned to get at least six hours of sun each day.
  9. Keep the container garden out of direct wind to protect the butterflies.
  10. Add a flat stone to give a butterfly somewhere to relax and bask.

Butterfly Container Gardening-In Conclusion


There are considerable benefits if you choose butterfly container gardening for your deck or patio. Creating these habitats is fun and it can promote healthy plant growth in your garden. As an added benefit, you can help to increase the local butterfly population to healthy numbers.

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