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My front yard has 2 flower beds. One small one is a rain garden with Turk's cap connected to the down spout from a roof gutter. The larger one has two rose bushes, 2 salvias, 1 dying dwarf Mexican petunia and shrubs. I live in USDA zone 9 or 9b.

What do I need to plant to attract butterflies? Will it get too crowded? Are butterfly attracting plants drought resistant?

Found this online:

In Southeast Texas, butterflies (Scientific Order: Lepidoptera) can be seen almost year round. From swallowtails to monarchs, these butterflies dance about our gardens in a visual symphony that is joyful to watch. The life cycle of a butterfly occurs in four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) and adult (butterfly).

What you may not know is that butterfly larvae (the caterpillars) are tied to specific host plants and they have definite preferences. A host plant is where adult butterflies lay their eggs. When the larvae hatch, they begin eating the leaves of the host plant. This food source enables them to grow, pupate and then become butterflies. Without it, the cycle stops. Adult butterflies need nectar to survive and they get it from a variety of flowers in bloom throughout the year. So if you want to see more butterflies in your neighborhood and garden, your habitat should support the needs of butterflies during all four stages of their life cycle.

larger flower bed small rain garden

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It's true about host plants - but they might not always be ones you actually want. Nettles are a host plant in the UK for two different butterflies, but I can't say I'm all that thrilled at having nettles in the garden, and they tend to prefer large patches of nettles to just one or two plants.

It's probably much easier to settle for providing plants which adult butterflies like rather than somewhere for them to lay their eggs, although some research into your local butterflies might reveal which plants they'd use for this purpose, and enable you to decide whether you're prepared to grow them or not.

Your Mexican petunia is attractive to butterflies for one thing. You haven't said whether the area with the roses is sunny or not, but I'll assume it must be because you've got roses there. There are some basic rules to remember - butterflies are not attracted to plants which don't produce nectar, so double flowered varieties of anything are out, along with a number of summer bedding type F1 hybrid plants. They also don't like windy, exposed conditions, and prefer the plants they visit to be in sun. As for whether they're drought resistant, being attractive to butterflies does not confer drought resistance, it depends on the plant - Monarda (bergamot) for instance likes damp ground, but is extremely attractive to butterflies, whereas Lavender prefers dry conditions, but is also reasonably attractive to them.

Plants you can consider for your area are: Echinacea purpurea; Alyssum; Ageratum; Cosmos; Coreopsis; Lantana; Liatris; Scabious varieties; Verbena varieties; Sedums such as 'Autumn Joy'; Plumbago; Solidago; Zinnia and the very obvious and extremely popular (to butterflies) Buddleia davidii, although I believe the latter is considered an invasive weed in many parts of the States. There are others, and I happen to know that Philadelphus varieties are a larval plant for the Tiger Swallowtail - the flowers are scented and there is a yellow leaved variety, so its not an unattractive plant, if you have the room.

  • The gardens face north and get about 6 hours of sunlight per day. – Danger14 Feb 9 '15 at 2:52
  • @Danger14 - summer AND winter? surprising - but six hours a day will be enough. – Bamboo Feb 9 '15 at 13:15

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