Butterflies flit, flutter and gracefully weave through our landscapes. In some cultures are referred to as “flying flowers”, butterflies are an iconic sign of summer. In our part of Florida, however, they thrive almost year-round. Based on what you plant and where you plant, the odds are in your favor that you will attract butterflies from some of the 200 species of who call Florida home. Kids love the wonder of this mysterious renewal. Adults and seniors find peace, joy and beauty a simple and often therapeutic pleasure.
If you’re a beginner, choose a popular butterfly like a Monarch or Gulf Fritillary. Do your research and identify the right host plants plus some flowering nectar plants like Penta. Local nurseries are very helpful. A fav is Lukas Nursery in Oviedo (they even offer tours of their butterfly greenhouse) and Palmers near Leu Gardens. The Winter Park Farmers Market even has a vendor who sells butterfly garden starter kits. There are also butterfly gardening classes at Leu Gardens. Make sure NONE of your butterfly host plants or nectar flowers are treated with pesticides. Why? Cause butterflies are insects! Ask before you purchase. Sadly, the big box nursery plants are usually treated with pesticides. Applied or systemic pesticides kill butterflies.
Once your garden is planted (or set up in pots) your beautiful, flowering nectar plants will attract butterflies to your garden. The females will possibly lay their eggs on your host plants. The eggs hatch into hungry (but harmless) caterpillars that munch and munch away the host plants until they reach the size and time to pupate (form a chrysalis). After a week or two, the new butterfly emerges, dries and cures its wings, eventually taking flight. With a little luck your butterflies will return to your garden and begin the next generation and then the next, pumping your landscape and neighborhood full of these delicate, beautiful “flying flowers”.