Creating a Butterfly Garden with your Children

If you’re looking for a fun and rewarding educational activity to share with your children at home, why not involve them in the creation of a butterfly garden in your back (or front) yard?

To most children (and many adults!) butterflies are whimsical little garden dwellers and one of the closest things we have to the fairies in children’s stories. Colorful and playful, they are pollinators and a fabulous addition to your garden.

Why Create a Butterfly Garden with your Kids?

flower GardenGetting your children involved in the planning, creation, and ongoing enjoyment of a butterfly garden is a fantastic way to introduce them to gardening as well as teaching them about science and nature, the butterfly life cycle, and the important role of these little beings in our environment.

Kids benefit from Planning and Growing a Butterfly Garden in various ways:

  • Learn about the butterfly life cycle from caterpillar to butterfly
  • Discover what plants need to be in the garden to attract butterflies
  • Understand why butterflies are important to the ecosystem
  • Develop a love for gardening and nature
  • Spending time outdoors together in the sun and fresh air
  • Appreciation for and connection with the beauty of nature
  • A tool to kindle their imagination!

What Needs to Be in the Garden to Attract Butterflies?

A butterfly garden requires an array of colorful, nectar-producing plants to not only attract butterflies but also feed them during the stages of their life cycle when they are caterpillars. Without caterpillars, there are no butterflies!

What You will Need to Create Your Butterfly Garden:

  1. A garden bed, raised garden bed, or large containers/pots or window boxes in a sunny position
  2. Shovel or trowel
  3. Quality soil or potting mix
  4. Hose or watering can
  5. Flowering plants to attract and feed butterflies
  6. Host plants to feed caterpillars

Planning your Garden with your Kids:

Creating Butterfly GardenBefore you plant your butterfly garden, you need to plan it. The garden will need to provide both food and shelter for these insects’ – a place where caterpillar eggs and babies can shelter safely as well as a sunny spot for adult butterflies to dry their wings and bask in the sun. They need protection from high winds and rain.

  • Try to research the butterfly species native to your area – this will dictate the types of plants which will best suit them.
  • Choose a location with at least six hours of full sun per day, but offer some shade in summer.
  • Plan to have both host plants as well as nectar plants to see your butterflies through their entire life cycle.
  • Butterflies (and bees) like a wilder garden – so let your plantings be a little “chaotic” as opposed to uniform and trimmed.
  • Plant in color groups to best attract butterflies. A group of pink flowers will work better than a single pink flower on its own. Overall, plant an array of colors as the more colorful your garden, the more butterflies it will attract.
  • Choose plants to grow to a variety of heights for the best options for feeding, shelter, and visual appeal.
  • Choose plants with blooms – single bloom flowers produce the most nectar and are better suited for access. Large blooms are also important for resting purposes. Tubular or long flowers are ideal.
  • Plan a garden with different plant and flower varieties so that you will have blooms throughout the year. Choose both perennials and annuals.
  • Avoid the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides in your garden.
  • Place a very shallow dish of water with some marbles in it near your butterfly garden. This gives the butterflies a safe place to land and drink. Freshen it weekly.
  • Butterflies also like mud puddles, and need these to get some nutrients.
  • Consider installing a little butterfly house – you can buy these. They are very cute and the kids will love it – even more so if butterflies move in!
  • Understand that you might see some munched-on leaves. This is a good thing in a butterfly garden! As it means that there is probably some caterpillars lurking around your garden.

Kids can also learn more about Butterflies and their growing cycle by Growing their own Butterflies

What Plants to include in your Garden to attract Butterflies and Keep them there:

Butterfly GardenFor attracting butterflies:

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Aster
  • Bee Balm
  • Delphinium
  • Daisy
  • Lavender
  • Alyssum
  • Daylily
  • Zinnia
  • Lantana
  • Cosmos
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Hibiscus
  • Dandelion
  • Sunflower
  • Petunia
  • Verbena
  • Marigold

For attracting larvae/caterpillars:

  • Milkweed
  • Thistle
  • Crepe myrtle
  • Native violets
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Carrots
  • Lupin
  • Pansy
  • Nettle

The Rewards you Will receive from Growing a Butterfly Garden with your Children

Butterflies are the most beautiful and intriguing of all insects and are more commonly seen in suburban gardens than dragonflies and ladybugs. When you plant a butterfly garden, however, you’ll likely have the bonus of also attracting these and other lovely little insect friends. It’s a fun activity and well worth your time – and your children will love it!